Publilshed In Epoch Times

Dream-like Puzzles Lead to Rocking in the Park

The birth of 60’s Poster Art and the sounds that inspired it are celebrated at the 40th Anniversary of the Summer of Love.


Much of what became known as the 60’s Revolution took place—or began—in San Francisco.  The same was true for the new Poster Art, an art form developed for the posters that advertised the concerts prevalent in that day.

Bright colors, neon’s and fluorescence were used in the creation of Poster Art.  Evocative dream-like images were dominant and the prevalent form of lettering was done by hand in rounded shapes that fit together like a puzzle.

Moving away from traditional art forms, artists used the music and mood of the 60’s for inspiration to popularize the new Poster Art.  The era brought about the term “psychedelic”—coined from the visions that accompanied experimental mind-altering substances. Wild images and electric colors found in both fashion and art fit the term, and the time.

Psychedelic Poster Art was combined with a new style of lighting used at concerts where a kaleidoscope of colors pulsated to the beat of the music.  Elements of the poster designs came to life only when viewed under black light, part of the unique lighting.

Posters and rock concerts went hand in hand.  The epicenter of Poster Art was formed around a stable of artists at Chet Helms Family Dog.  Family Dog and Bill Graham were the front-runners of this new style of musical event, promoting concerts at the Avalon Ballroom and Fillmore West in San Francisco.  Each concert was commemorated by a new poster.  Over the years these posters grew in value and today are considered prized collectibles.

Victor Moscosco, Wes Wilson, Stanley Mouse, Alton Kelly, Pat Ryan, John Thompson, John Van Hammersveld and the late Rick Griffin were among the artists that pioneered Poster Art.  These artists continue to use this style in their work today.

The Love Pageant Rally was the first outdoor concert in Golden Gate Park in October 1966.  Following that came the Human Be-In in January 1967, prelude to Monterey Pop and the start of the Summer of Love. To commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the Summer of Love, twelve noteworthy poster artists created 24 different posters.  A familiar style of Poster Art announced the appropriately titled  “Gathering of the Tribes” held Saturday September 2 at Speedway Meadows in Golden Gate Park.

In addition to the 24 artist’s Peter Max created the official poster announcing the concert and the decorative backdrop for the stage.

Artisan’s tents were erected at the concert to showcase the psychedelic poster art. Vintage posters along with current works of the poster artists were on display.  A number of the original artists represented their work, including Ryan, Thompson and Mouse.

Artist, and MC, Ann Cohen, widow of Oracle publisher Allen Cohen, held a “Paint In” where all were welcome to try their hand at some colorful art themselves. Supplies were provided free of charge and tips from a few of the renound poster artists were available in the art corner set up near the entrance to the 40th celebration in the Park.

The Haight Ashbury Oracle was the ground breaking psychedelic newspaper that printed in a rainbow of colors with art from a variety of the famous 60’s artists and ran the poetry and views of beat poets and peaceful revolutionaries of the 60’s.

“If you can remember the 60’s…you weren’t really there,” so they say.  To capture the spirit you may have missed, Pat Ryan’s ‘Gathering of the Tribes” poster put it well: “The theme is love…so bring your good vibes” and above all, “get ready to rock.”

Rock it did, and an abundance of love were clearly present. The musicians that created the San Francisco Sound, and were the soul of the 60’s, rocked from 9 to 6.  Rowan Brothers, New Riders, The Charlatans, Country Joe, Canned Heat, Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape, Dan Hicks, Buddy Miles, Cold Blood and Taj Mahal were some of the bands that kept the lively crowd entertained.  A number of 60’s musicians joined forces and recreated some of the tunes that were famous in that day Leigh Stephens from Blue Cheer and Greg Douglas from Steve miller, Terry Haggerty from the Sons of Chaplan, Ray Manzarek from the Doors and Ron Thompson were among them.  For my money Taj Mahal stole the show, every bit the blues man he is famous for.

The day started with the commemoration of Native American’s with members from Chippewa and Sacagawea tribes.  Merle Tendon Shonie gave blessings along with Buddhist Monk Khenchen Rinpoche and Rabbi Joseph Langer.  Emmit Powell and the Gospel Elites were the appropriate AM music followed by the original cast of Hair. The music was played in 15-minute increments with 5 minute’s for speeches interspersed

It was a full day and the producer, Boots Hughston kept it right on schedule.  As the bands played on, noteworthy San Franciscans who contributed in some way to the magic or needs of the 60’s spoke, David Smith from the Haight Ashbury Medical Clinic, Ben Fong Torres and Scoop Nisker represented the radio station KSAN and the iconic Wavy Gravy, entertainer at large at many of the 60’s events.  Lenore Kandel the Love Book poet, who read at the original Human Be-In, shared some of her controversial poetry.

Memorable tunes filled the air over the unexpectedly large crowd, over 100,000.  The Large grassy field was filled with graying baby boomers and their grown children.  It was a true gathering of tribes with the same desires, a peaceful world and a caring eye on our planet.  The 40th not only celebrated the 60’s but also was intended to be reminiscent of the Human Be-In that Michael Bowen and Allen Cohen produced. The Be-In theme was “a union of love and activism”.

As they exited the crowd was polled and asked if they thought the Summer of Love could happen again.  Three women of the late 60’s Judy Fisher, Marla Ferrara and Barbara Villareal shared,” yes, everyone thinks it could be done today and should be.”  Priscilla Sanders and partner Steven Levine, who was at the original Be-In, “yes we could do it again and we should.  The message is needed”.

The majority felt that we could do it again, that brotherly love was alive; peace was a priority goal along with respect for our planet.  The desire for leadership that would hear that voice was nearly unanimous.

At the end of the day, the vibes were good and the crowd left rocking.

For more details about the concert and art go to

Debra Amundson lives and writes in California. Contact her at 


    1. Aren’t those artists something. Some of the work is on permanent display at SFMOMA. Don’t know where you are but you could check with your local library and see if they know where there might be real life displays. I promise to get some of the originals posted soon.

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