As the sun sets over the foothills in Paso Robles, 58,800 fiber-optic lights fade in and out in massive color-changing waves, creating an iridescent sea.
Located 37 miles north of Cal Poly, Sensorio is a 15-acre interactive light installation that went live May 19. The man behind the lights is world-famous British artist Bruce Munro, known for his light-based exhibits in places like London, Mexico City and South Korea.
Open until Jan. 5, this is Munro’s eighth Field of Light. This will be his largest exhibit to-date and his first solar-powered installation in United States.
Munro’s other displays around the world have attracted hundreds of thousands of people. Specifically, Field of Light in Uluru has attracted over 200,000 visitors.
“Art is a great medium to connect people. Its a really great medium of expression,” Munro said. “If you are truthful to it, you’ve got to be completely honest and do things that you really feel are saying what you want them to feel.”
Why Paso Robles
About four years ago, owner of Hunter Ranch Golf Course Ken Hunter and his wife Bobbi were in Uluru, Australia, where they visited Munro’s installation. In that moment, they were set on creating an exhibit in their town of Paso Robles.
“We are a couple who have had a dream of bringing an entertaining, natural garden-like attraction to central California for many years,” Hunter said. “We love nature and all it entails.”
The Hunters invited Munro out to Paso Robles where he found inspiration in the landscape-opened Sensorio. Three years later, Sensorio opened to the public.
The fast turnaround time brought up concerns about the environment.
According to Sensorio operations director Steve Deferville, ordinances allowed for the project to remove 10 percent of the existing oak tree canopy — approximately 250 trees — and great measures were taken to retain trees.
“The land was the architecture,” Munro said.
Business administration senior Kristin Butler visited the Australian exhibit while studying abroad.
“The whole night felt like something I had dreamed up — it’s like being in a nighttime wonderland,” Butler said.
Butler recently bought tickets to see the local version of Sensorio over graduation weekend with her parents.
Longtime Paso Robles resident Justin Johnston said his initial reaction to Sensorio’s opening was that he was in “The Wizard of OZ.”
“You’re waiting for munchkins to pop out, but at the same time, it was very beautiful,” Johnston said.
The Field of Light at Sensorio is open Wednesdays through Sundays as the sun goes down from 7-11 p.m. Tickets for adults are $27 Wednesdays and Thursdays and $30 Fridays through Sundays.
Leah Castillo and Dante DiFronzo contributed to this story.