Paso’s Field of Light is environmentally safe, representative says

Copyright © 2019 Bruce Munro. All rights reserved. Photography by Serena Munro

SLO Tribune

Published June 3, 2019

We were surprised and disappointed by the letter to the editor titled “Lights? Who needs ‘em?”.

The correspondent, Pete Sykes of Burlington, North Carolina, erroneously disparages “Bruce Munro: Field of Light at Sensorio” in Paso Robles as being created with “little forethought” and no care for wildlife or light pollution.

None of that is even remotely accurate. The artist, who has created internationally acclaimed works in both densely urban landscapes and remote rural areas around the globe, is acutely conscious of light pollution issues and has devoted himself to creating work that interacts harmoniously with its environment.

Indeed, Bruce Munro’s stated intent is to create work that demonstrates one only needs a tiny amount of light to create a dramatic effect. Contrary to this writer’s assumption, his exhibits have happily existed with kangaroos, wild turkeys, deer, desert rats and numerous other insect and wildlife the world over.

The fact that one can see stars while in the center of the exhibit demonstrates how little light is actually emitted. By comparison, the average U.S. house consumption is 2KW per hour. The Field of Light installation at Sensorio is just under 5KW per hour — the equivalent consumption of two and a half average houses, spread over 15 acres.

It is currently lit less than three hours per night, from approximately 8:30 p.m., when its canyon setting grows dark, until 11 p.m. (hours of illumination vary according to season), a total of five days per week. The exhibit was also intentionally kept below the horizon line of the surrounding landscape, creating an intimate, quiet space for appreciation of its natural setting, with a location carefully selected to contain the luminosity and reduce its presence on the local environment.

The entire work uses only solar energy, which is gathered throughout the day using 58 solar panels, and all light-emitting equipment has been carefully selected based upon its low power consumption. At the conclusion of the show, all material will be reused again for years to come, or responsibly recycled — provisions for this already are under agreement in the exhibition contract.

But most to the writer’s point: conservation of wildlife habitat was carefully monitored by a panoply of California environmental agencies before any permitting was allowed. Sensorio worked closely with each of these entities: California Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Air Pollution Control District, California Regional Water Quality Control Board, city of Paso Robles, Army Corps of Engineers.