In close collaboration with artist Charles Gadeken and community members in Palo Alto, The Black Rock Arts Foundation is excited to help bring Aurora to downtown Palo Alto.

Aurora by Charles Gadeken
Palo Alto City Hall Plaza
250 Hamilton Ave.
Palo Alto, California 94301
November 1, 2013 – Present
Mixed metal (steel and copper), over 40,000 L.E.D. lights
30’H x 40’W x 40’D

Thanks to all who contributed to the Aurora Palo Alto Kickstarter Campaign! You helped us make this project a reality!

2013 Civic Arts project Aurora, by Charles Gadeken, in Palo Alto, Ca.

Another big thank you to all who attended the Aurora Palo Alto lighting event on Saturday, November 16th. It was a fun and family-friendly gathering featuring music, crafts, and the opportunity to meet the artist, the Mayor of Palo Alto, and the kids who made this installation possible.

In addition to making a direct grant, BRAF is acting as the fiscal sponsor of the Aurora Palo Alto project, allowing tax-deductible donations to be made to fund the long-term temporary public installation.

Donate now using the link below to make a tax-deductible donation.


The artist’s rendering of Aurora installed at Palo Alto City Hall Plaza.

About the Piece

First displayed at Burning Man in 2011, Aurora is a 30′ tall opalescent metal sculpture of a weeping willow tree.  Its 40′ canopy is composed of hand-beaten copper leaves and is illuminated by approximately 40,000 LED lights that gradually cycle through the color spectrum.  Artist Charles Gadeken says of the piece:

With this piece, I am creating an environment of mythical beauty that instills a sense of awe, wonder and joy to those who experience it. It acts as a unique and unexpected element placed in the world that empowers and transforms the viewer at the moment of participation. Viewers become enveloped in the magic of the experience and are taken out of the everyday. This work brings light to the darkness, making nature come alive in the desert night. This piece provides branches to read under, a forest in which to play or fight, waging a war full of knights and princesses, a fairy tree to re-ignite our childhood imaginations, full of wonder and endless possibility.

This tree represents the secret clubhouse, the magical wardrobe, the portal from a practical reality into a real life fairy tale. It is the barrier between waking and dreaming. The tree enacts a time outside of time, and a place outside of place. It is a universe all your own, that responds to your presence and an alternate reality that connects and inspires all of us to play.

For more information, visit the Aurora Palo Alto website.

Aurora at Burning Man in 2011, photo by James Addison
Aurora at Burning Man in 2011, photo by James Addison

About the Project and Collaborators:

Sam and Julia
Sam and Julia

The initiative to display Aurora in Palo Alto began with local residents Sam and Julia Hirschman (ages 10 and 8) who have been working on the project for over a year.  With the support of their Father, Harry, they have engaged local civic and business organizations to support the project as well as gathering petitions to support the project. They have secured the support of the Palo Alto Art Commission and the Palo Alto Business Association.

The proposed site for Aurora‘s installation is City Hall Plaza in Palo Alto.  The site was selected because it is a high traffic public space in the heart of downtown Palo Alto with high potential as a gathering place.

About the Artist

Charles Gadeken has been working as a professional artist in the Bay Area for 20 years. His artistic practice seeks to realize the potential for unexpected magic and serendipity in everyday life. His art pulls inspiration from objects, structures and natural processes in the world around us, and transforms them into beautifully crafted sculptures that engage and surprise the viewer. His goal through this work is to instill a sense of play into the environment, taking the form of things we tend to overlook and remaking them as magical items that exist as a real life portal to our imagination.

Charlie’s work has thus far incorporated mixed metals, interactive and kinetic elements, and special effects in various forms such as fire, light, and electricity. It ranges dramatically in size and functionality, from smaller scale static sculpted metalwork exemplified in my contribution of a heart to San Francisco General Hospital’s Heroes & Hearts program, to monumental sized public artwork commissioned for temporary festivals and community celebrations all over the west coast, including Coachella, Burning Man, Insomniac Events, Maker Faire, and many more.

Charles is a founding member of The Flaming Lotus Girls, the acclaimed artist cooperative who produced Serpent Mother and other celebrated works. Charles is also the founder of The Box Shop, a San Francisco container-based community artspace and metal shop that houses over 40 artists and designs and builds custom fire art for individual collectors.