Experience Field of Light in Paso RoblesNov 30, 2019 11:00AM ● By Melissa Mendonca
Let There Be Light
Story by Melissa Mendonca
Photos by Serena Munro
ANY TRIP TO Uluru (Ayers Rock) in the Australian Outback is sure to elicit contemplation, wonder and awe. For Ken and Bobbi Hunter of Santa Ynez, it also spurred inspiration for their property in Paso Robles.
It so happened that their adventure trip to Uluru coincided with a mesmerizing and enormous outdoor light exhibit by British artist Bruce Munro. The experience was so profound, they contacted Munro to create something similar for their property, now known as Sensorio.
More than a decade ago, the Hunters purchased the 380 acres of land across the street from their business, Hunter Ranch Golf Course in Paso Robles.
“Ken knew he wanted to create something that would give back to the community, that would be a legacy project,” says Tracy Strann. A consulting company was hired to dream big for the property, to “rival and exceed anyone’s expectations,” she adds. “They came up with this huge project, and it took years.”
The Bruce Munro Field of Light at Sensorio quickly eclipsed all previous plans to become the first of several phases at Sensorio. It opened on May 19 of this year and is Munro’s largest international and only solar-powered U.S. project to date.
“People are hungry for personal experience, and that’s what this is,” says Strann, executive director of Sensorio. The experience of the Field of Light is a half-mile circular walk through a canyon lit by 58,800 optic solar lights that morph color. “Just naturally, there is a hush that happens. People really get in contact with their own emotions, their own inspiration. Everybody has a personal experience with it. It’s a little like going to Oz.”
Since its opening, roughly 3,000 visitors have wound their way through the Field of Light each week, with opening hours varying monthly based upon the time of sundown. “They all go in separately and they come out with each other, talking, laughing. People come out
with tears in their eyes. It’s very fulfilling,” says Strann.
“Experiential art is kind of the future. People are looking for connection.”
Strann herself was recruited out of New York for her position, after wide and varied experiences in the arts, including helping to open and run the Grammy Museum and Saratoga Performing Arts Center. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of something completely new,” she says. When she arrived in Paso Robles the land was just starting to be graded and installation of utilities had only just begun. “There was literally nothing,” she says with a laugh. “In seven months we opened.”
The Field of Light itself took six weeks to complete with 15-23 staff and volunteers working eight hours a day, five days a week. Munro himself oversaw all of the work and brought four staff members with him. Sensorio hired another four, and 300 volunteers chipped in.
The Field of Light experience can be as simple as a stroll or as elegant as a VIP experience that includes a four-course gourmet picnic dinner catered by Trumpet Vine Catering with two drinks at a raised terrace offering a tremendous view of the lights. Guests wanting a more casual experience can visit a Mexican food truck on the grounds and buy local beer. Live music plays every night.
While it can be a romantic experience for couples – “all of a sudden there was a pop-up wedding in the middle of the lights,” says Strann – it’s a place for everyone. “We do family nights when all kids are half price,” she adds. The Field of Light has also attracted Bruce Munro fans from as far as Australia and New Zealand. “It’s a combination of every kind of human being you can imagine,” says Strann. “It appeals to everyone.”
The Bruce Munro Field of Lights is the first of many grand phases at Sensorio, and Strann looks forward to each new one that the Hunters come up with. “They’re world travelers. They love music and art and theater,” she says. “They love everything. They’re very much visionaries.” •
Bruce Munro: Field of Light at Sensorio
4380 Highway 46 East, Paso Robles
Find them on Facebook and Instagram
On display through January 5, 2020
Melissa Mendonca is a graduate of San Francisco State and Tulane universities. She’s a lover of airports and road trips and believes in mentoring and service to create communities everyone can enjoy. Her favorite words are rebar, wanderlust and change.