On its own, Grace Cathedral in San Francisco is a stunning work of architecture and design. Built in 1849 during California’s Gold Rush, the church has survived two major earthquakes and the city’s Great Fire. Walk in the massive front doors, and a cavernous space — complete with incredibly high ceilings and stained glass windows — will greet you.
All the markings of a carefully maintained church are there, but if you manage to visit before February 28th, you’ll spot something slightly surprising — over 20-miles of beautifully colored ribbon hanging from the tip top of the cathedral.
The breathtaking display, titled “State of Grace,” was designed and built by artist Anne Patterson. Patterson’s work is based on her relationship with music and color. “I have what’s called synesthesia,” Patterson says. “When I hear music, I see colors and shapes. It’s like a crossing over of different senses.”
Although Patterson initially conceptualized the installation for the 100-year anniversary of the Cathedral’s men and boy’s choir, the installation’s display dates have been extended to accommodate enthusiastic visitors.
“The whole concept came about because I spent so much time in the Cathedral watching people interact with the space,” says Patterson. “The first thing people do is look up. One, because its such a grand space. But also because it’s a spiritual place. People want to connect with a higher power.”
The ribbons address both of those aspects. Using a series of catwalks around the Cathedral ceiling, Patterson hung 20 miles of ribbon from the top of the space. Long ropes were laid out on the ground, and carefully labeled to determine where each color of ribbon should go. “It wasn’t just willy-nilly,” says Patterson. “We spent a lot of time laying out the composition of colors.”
Each piece of red ribbon plays a special part in the installation — visitors to the church wrote their dreams, prayers and wishes on the ends of the ribbons before they were hung (see photo below).
If you’d like to visit the installation yourself, make your way to Grace Cathedral in San Francisco before February 28, 2014. Patterson suggests experiencing the display at one of the Cathedral’s free yoga classes on Tuesdays. “As people start doing yoga, the heat from everyone rises and the ribbons dance with the heat,” says Patterson. “It’s amazing to see.”