Glow: Festival of Lights

Thursday, December 5, 2019–Sunday, January 26, 2020

Exploratorium, Pier 15 (Embarcadero at Green Street)

Included with museum admission.

All Ages

Celebrate the holidays with us and excite your atoms at Glow, our annual festival of ebullient lights and subtle glows celebrating the close of the year. Bask in the mesmerizing gleams of special installations and kinetic sculptures, take a shine to illuminating exhibits, and show your sparkle with scintillating activities.

San Francisco is festive at holiday time, so enjoy the lights and bustle as you stroll along the beautiful Embarcadero waterfront with your loved ones to pay us a visit at Pier 15!

The festivities begin at After Dark: Glow on December 5, where you can savor adults-only programming (18+) featuring unique guest speakers and one-of-a-kind activities.

Special Black Box Installation

By Karina Smigla-Bobinski
Friday, December 6, 2019– January 20, 2020
Osher Gallery 1, Black Box
Preview on December 5, 2019 • 7:00–10:00 p.m. (Ages 18+)

Experience a landscape of astonishing visual effects in the interactive installation Kaleidoscope. Constructed as an 8-foot-square light table, artist Karina Smigla-Bobinski’s Kaleidoscope invites you to manipulate layers of inks comprised entirely of the primary colors. Each touch of the surface generates hyperdynamic new images that visualize the motion energy into engaging, chaotic patterns.

Image courtesy of Karin Smigla-Bobinski, KIKK Festival.



By Leo Villareal

Inspired by the shape first explored by futurist and inventor Buckminster Fuller, Buckyball is a towering 25-foot illuminated sculpture featuring two nested geodesic spheres. Composed of 4,500 LED nodes arranged along a series of pentagons and hexagons, Buckyball is animated by custom software programmed by Villareal to display over 16 million distinct colors.


Cubatron Core

Cubatron Core
By Mark Lottor
Bechtel Gallery 3

Bask in the cascading colors of this tremendous, torus-shaped sculpture by returning artist Mark Lottor. Twenty-six feet in diameter and eighteen feet high, Cubatron Core is made of 3,840 individually controllable RGB LEDs.

Light Chimes

Language Cloud
By Laura Stevenson
Museum Entryway

The human brain is trained to seek out patterns in visual and linguistic inputs—but Language Cloud might put it to the test. Scavenged and repurposed from old neon signs, let this pleasantly disorienting jumble of letters and words teach you about the flexibility of language and the plasticity of the brain.

Laura Stevenson is a sculptor based in San Francisco. Her work explores themes of the human emotional landscape as we struggle to understand our part in an uncertain environmental future. Materiality and process are core aspects of her work; she carefully chooses materials for their significance in human manufacturing or the natural world.


The Everbright
By Hero Design
Gallery 3 by Giant Mirror

The Everbright is art you make art with—think the Lite-Brite of your childhood, but with dials that rotate endlessly through a spectrum of hundreds of colors. Made with evolutionary biology in mind, The Everbright considers the integration of the hands and eyes in the development of humankind and the ways in which infants take in and manipulate the world around them.

Trained as a scientist with a PhD in neuroscience from Stanford University, Hero Design’s principal designer, Dr. Alan Rorie, has been a fellow at the Exploratorium as well as a researcher at NIH and NYU.