The Summer of Love Turns 50

A photo of San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, where the Summer of Love first began.

San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, where the Summer of Love first began.
Photo credit: ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock

This summer marks the 50th anniversary of San Francisco’s Summer of Love, a cultural phenomenon that took place in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in 1967 but was reflected across the world. Depending on who you talk to, it was either a fleeting moment of the counterculture hippie extravaganza already going on at that time—or it was a tipping point that led to significant social change. Either way, the cultural artifacts of that time—music, art, fashion, and more—remain fascinating to many, which is why the de Young Museum’s Summer of Love exhibit is drawing all kinds of attention, particularly from tech sector benefactors.

San Francisco may not be quite the central art hub it once was. But with Silicon Valley bigwigs like investment banker Thomas Weisel, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, and others of their ilk brushing elbows and instilling a sense of the importance of both technology and community, the Bay Area art scene is still kicking. After all, the home of the Summer of Love is also the home of one of the world’s largest concentrations of billionaires. And those billionaires love their art.

That’s why the de Young Museum’s Spring Gala was such a star-studded affair. A fundraiser held in honor of the museum’s Summer of Love exhibit, with proceeds going to the Junior Committee of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the gala was a celebration of that summer 50 years ago when thousands of young people from all over the U.S. poured into San Francisco looking for free music, free drugs, and free sex. The decaying Haight-Ashbury district was transformed into a psychedelic playground hosting the likes of Janis Joplin, Grace Slick, and the Grateful Dead.

“We’re celebrating the Summer of Love, which was a moment in time when the world’s attention was centered around San Francisco,” said interior designer Ken Fulk at the gala. “Here we are again, with people that are creating ideas and companies that are truly changing the way we live. It’s staggering and intoxicating.”

The de Young exhibit, titled “The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll,” runs from April 8 to August 20 and includes iconic rock posters, costumes, textiles, photographs, avant-garde films, and music and light shows. The collection presents more than 300 cultural artifacts, 150 of which are from the museum’s permanent holdings.

Even if you can’t make it to San Francisco, you can still experience the exhibit via an interactive online tour on the museum’s website. Groovy!

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