Let There Be Light at the End of the Tunnel

Tory DiPietro’s creative project brings hope at a time when it’s needed most.

I’m writing these words on the second Saturday afternoon of the New Year. 

My windows are open—we’ve all absorbed the science during this plague that more circulation is better—and I live about a mile up the road and up a hill from a fire station.

So, as I type, my soundtrack is sirens. Seemingly ceaseless sirens. Same as it was yesterday, and the day before. 

It’s no secret why. The hospitals here in Los Angeles are overwhelmed. ICUs are full. Gift shops and chapels have been repurposed for patients. Triage tents are erected outside. Oxygen is being rationed. Across Los Angeles County, every eight minutes someone dies from COVID-19. Across the county, yesterday alone, 4,000 people died from COVID. Every day now, the toll is larger than 9/11.

Even today’s non-COVID news included the passing of a beloved pair of Los Angeles boosters and civic icons, Dodgers Manager Tommy Lasorda and former City Councilmember Tom LaBonge. This follows the recent passing of two other L.A.-based civic icons, Marshall McKay and Rafer Johnson.

Meanwhile, from Washington, D.C., more news and footage emerged about what exactly happened on January 6, 2021. The Capitol Building was breached for the first time since the War of 1812. The Confederate battle flag flying inside our congressional home for the first time. A noose and gallows erected just outside the Capitol Building. Domestic terrorists inside chanting for the execution of Vice President Pence. Footage of a police officer getting beaten by a domestic terrorist wielding an American flag. Confirmation of another police officer collapsing, and dying, after allegedly being murdered by a domestic terrorist wielding a blunt object. 

It’s enough to make a person pause typing, get up, and clear his head.

Moments like this are why I and many others have been volunteering our time and money in solidarity with a visionary artist’s project conceived to help bring hope and light to a city—and beyond—that has seen better days, and needs to see them again soon. 

The artist Tory DiPietro wants to remind us all that there is light at the end of the tunnel. That’s literally as well as figuratively. DiPietro is working to mount a monumental neon art installation titled “The Light at the End of the Tunnel—Heart of Los Angeles,” at the exit of the 3rd Street tunnel in Downtown Los Angeles.

The installation on the busy concrete tunnel will consist of a monumental, backlit, red neon heart bisected with a backlit neon “Los Angeles” in a white plated steel. Above, neon glass light tubes of purple, blue, green, and yellow will cast a welcoming and mesmerizing rainbow of color.

“We are living in one of the darkest chapters in recent human history, collectively living in uncertainty. I believe moments like this call for massive acts of love and light,” DiPietro said recently.

DiPietro continued: “With this project, I hope to overpower recent memories of the isolation and uncertainty with hope and something beautiful and magical that can spark new imagination in the minds of children who travel through the tunnel, offer a happy detour to adults on the ride home after a rough workday, and leave an impactful reminder that no matter how dark things get, the light and heart of Los Angeles will always be brighter.”

The project is also offering a donor who gives $10,000–$20,000+ the opportunity to have their name on a plaque located by the piece, a ceremony honoring the gift, and as an added thank you, an original piece of neon art by DiPietro.

This project could use a little bit of your help. 

For those of you in the CSQ community whose stock market fortunes have soared during the past year, you have so many vital and necessary philanthropic options and opportunities right now, in addition to all the nonstop work that so many of you are doing to keep your companies in business and therefore helping your team members and their families remain employed, insured, and healthy, the “Light at the End of the Tunnel” may well be another project that you and the people in your orbit can help support. And if not, please feel free to share this GoFundMe campaign link to friends and colleagues who might be interested.

Or if you prefer to give more than $500 and want tax donation information, you can visit this page: lapca.networkforgood.com, or send a check or money order payable to: LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes. Please write on the check subject line: “Neon Rainbow.” The mailing address is: LA Plaza de Cultura Artes, 501 N. Main St., Los Angeles, CA 90012. Include your full name and address, and you will receive a receipt directly from LA Plaza. (LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes is a nonprofit 501c3 organization. Their tax ID is 75-3059288.)

The project is also offering a donor who gives $10,000–$20,000+ the opportunity to have their name on a plaque located by the piece, a ceremony honoring the gift, and as an added thank you, an original piece of neon art by DiPietro.

LA Plaza is an important cultural museum. Why did the organization get involved? LA Plaza’s CEO, John Echeveste, described “The Light at the End of the Tunnel” as “beautiful.” Echeveste also said: “We believe that this very important artwork by the emerging Mexican Italian neon artist Tory DiPietro will be a great addition to the Downtown L.A. streetscape.”

DiPietro grew up in Los Angeles’ Eastside and now lives and works in Venice. She conceived “The Light at the End of the Tunnel” during the early days of the safer-at-home quarantine.  

Since then, DiPietro and her producer on the project—the acclaimed cultural producer and neon veteran Adolfo V. Nodal—have been gathering the permissions and materials needed to complete such a large public work of art. The project is currently undergoing technical review at the Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering. (DiPietro, Nodal, and the project’s architect, A-Industrial, are volunteering their time to make “Light” happen.)

“Light” has already received multiple key grants, accolades and endorsements. The local city council office reviewed the project and contributed funds. The Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council and Downtown Center Business Improvement District are supportive. Ventex Technology, a leading neon supply company based in Texas, donated the transformers to power the artwork. The project just received its first significant grant, and more applications are in. Plus, 150 people so far have contributed to a GoFundMe to cover some of the project costs.

“We are relying on crowdfunding to raise a substantial part of the budget to create this artwork,” Nodal said. “This is an artist-initiated pandemic response project. It’s hard to find traditional sources of arts funding right now since cultural organizations are struggling. We invite each of you to join us and help make this happen.” 

To contribute to “The Light at the End of the Tunnel–Heart of Los Angeles,” visit:  gofundme.com/f/light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel-heart-of-la.