The Bay Area around San Francisco is partying all year to the tune of #SummerofLove50, the 50th anniversary celebration of the counterculture’s meteoric rise to prominence in 1967.
Like the Human Be In on January 14, 1967 and the many public pranks and festivals that preceded it, the Summer of Love events were big, public media darlings that broadcast the youth revolution around the world. Visitors to Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco in 2017 can expect museum exhibits, concerts, films, multimedia installations and other forms of expression that illustrate the era’s lasting influence on global art, politics, architecture and design.
The counterculture movement, a term coined by a Cal State professor for what he termed “immersive alternatives to resistance,” was the first time that the West Coast surged ahead of the New York art world in setting trends, presaging the role that Silicon Valley would have in the 90s. That theme is explored with style and depth in “Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia,” the kickoff Summer of Love event at the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA), through May 21, 2017.
Groove to the Visuals of #SummerofLove50
Joyfully comprehensive, “Hippie Modernism” highlights the wide variety of media explored by the counterculture movement and artists drawn to it. Curated by Andrew Blauvelt originally for the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, it shows off lots of colorful hippie products in the soaring light-filled galleries of BAMPFA’s stunning, year-old space. What makes the show more than a trip down memory lane is the addition of 75 works by local artists – many of them turned-on academicians from U.C. Berkeley.
Selected by BAMPFA Director and Chief Curator, Lawrence Rinder, and guest curator Greg Castillo, associate professor of architecture at U.C. Berkeley, they provide an intellectual basis for a new vision of utopia. (Check out our video for a preview of the fun.)
So what does Hippie Modernism mean?
As defined by those too young to have lived it, “hippie” is the umbrella term used for a variety of alternative lifestyle movements beginning with Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters in 1964 and ending, for the purposes of the art world, with the OPEC Oil Crisis and the decline of America’s world dominance in 1974.
Modernism represents a break from the past and, despite the hippies being anti-disciplinary (opposed to today’s focus on being multi-disciplinary), their free thinking ethos was infused into everything they touched. Whether fueled by the mind-altering drugs that accompanied days of ‘sex, drugs and rock n’ roll’ or Timothy Leary’s exhortation to ‘turn on, tune in, drop out,’ the work on display is a fascinating testament to the hippies’ lasting impact.
The Kids will Love This
The graphics exhorting love and peace will resonate with viewers of any age, and the psychedelic concert posters for the Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service and other bands reflect the era’s altered states. More free form galleries showcase walk-in immersive environments some might call mind-bending. There are wonderful costumes and fiber arts; we loved the family of four sweater — a huge gold, red and orange knit turtleneck designed to unify family members and teach them boundaries.
To complement experimental films by Jordan Belson, John Whitney and others, Pacific Film Archives will be showing a full schedule of feature films and documentaries from and about the era. Together with the powerful propaganda arts decrying the war in Vietnam and supporting the Black Power movement, women’s rights and gay liberation, “Hippie Modernism” reminds visitors that the struggle for utopia – in all its diversity — continues.
Tips for your Berkeley Visit
The heart of Berkeley is the garden-like campus dotted with soaring redwoods, surrounded by ramen shops, yoga studios, food coops and BAMPFA. As a base for a #SummerofLove50 vacation, Berkeley has cheaper hotels and freer speech than other Bay Area cities and it’s connected by public transit. (Haight-Ashbury is in San Francisco, a 30-minute BART ride plus 10-minute bus or Lyft ride away.)
Hotels reflect the diversity: the 90-year-old Hotel Durant’s quirky college chic includes free, regularly scheduled lobby activities; nightstand lamps shaped like bongs; framed art by Cal alumni like Hollywood designer Edith Head and radical Patty Hearst; and signage shaped like Varsity banners. While the venerable Durant is being renovated by hip new owners, Graduate Hotels, nightly rates include a cocktail reception and daily breakfast served in the woody Board Room. Waive the daily housekeeping (get the kids to make their beds) and you can enjoy a surprise (such as a snack basket or bottle of wine) delivered to your room.
The Hotel Shattuck Plaza, born in 1910 with a silver spoon and chandeliers, is another whimsically restored classic. The long winding hallways have trippy patterned carpets and wallpapers; the dark silk and Oriental room décor gives it an exotic and homey feel. The lobby bar and FIVE restaurant – a surprisingly fine dining experience with a menu featuring several creative salads and vegetarian dishes make the soaring lobby a local gathering place. Their “Berkeley Summer of Love 2017” package starts at $259/night for a room, 2 passes to BAMPFA, 2 Summer of Love cocktails, a $50 dining credit at FIVE and best yet, tie-dye surprises. You can’t be a hotel in Berkeley without free WiFi, and both hotels provide access to outside fitness facilities.
The #SummerofLove50 Rocks All Year
It wouldn’t be a season of free love, free food, free speech and free spirits without a free calendar to take in some of the other bold events commemorating the counterculture movement of 1967.
Start your visit with a Haight-Ashbury walking tour led by Wild SF Tours, a pay-what-you-wish guided lovefest that drew everyone in our group back in time to 1967. You met Wild Wes in our Summer of Love video… and don’t miss this tour.
Some favorite events throughout the Bay Area include “All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50,” which is a fascinating show about this misunderstood group of community activists at the Oakland Museum of California; it’s on till February 26.
“Summer of Love: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll” will be at the de Young Museum April 8-August 20, available at discounted admission to San Francisco CityPASS holders.
Join the free dancing in the streets at the annual festivals in Haight-Ashbury (June), Folsom (September 25) and the Castro district (October 2).
“Jim Marshall’s 1967″ is a free exhibit of 80 stunning Haight Ashbury photographs, largely of local musicians, organized by the San Francisco Arts Commission in a lower level space hidden in the beautiful Beaux Arts City Hall. It’s there till June 16, 2017 (a duplicate road show heads to the Grammy Museum Los Angeles from March 10-May 14, 2017.)
From May 12-September 10, the California Historical Society highlights more Summer of Love photography in “On the Road to the Summer of Love,” followed June 16-October 1 by the Asian Art Museum, whose 40 masterworks illustrate the visuals behind “Flower Power.” Check out Summer of Love 2017 for many more events and weekly performances.
Note to parents: If sheer embroidered blouses, miniskirts, people smoking joints and the other “countercultural” trappings of the era may offend you or your children, call ahead to determine each show’s content and plan to tune in accordingly.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.