The man behind the Great Wheel light shows

The man behind the Great Wheel light shows

Most artists use a brush and canvas or a pen and paper when creating great art. Gerry Hall’s canvas is 175 feet tall, weighs 280,300 pounds and is composed of just under 500,000 LED lights. And his artwork has grabbed both local and national attention.

Hall is the General Manager of the Seattle Wheel – a title and job description that doesn’t usually involve designing light displays. 

“The original job on Craigslist didn’t say anything about lights,” said Hall. “That’s something I did on my own, as kind of a hobby.”

What started as just a hobby has turned into almost a full time commitment. Hall’s light displays have gone from seemingly basic color schemes to intricate frame by frame shows. His most recent show was a 10 second time lapse of the letters G-O H-A-W-K-S, in honor of the team’s success. 

“I had to try four different versions of the K before getting it right,” said Hall. “Some letters are just harder than others. The letter B for example, that’s the worst.”

Similarly, there are just some symbols that won’t turn out well on the wheel due to its shape. Hall’s gotten multiple requests for the 12th Man icon (12).

“It’s impossible to do on the wheel without turning out all blobby,” he said. “But believe me, it’s not for lack of trying.”

The Seahawks aren’t the only ones to grace the Wheel. Microsoft, Bing, Pearl Jam and the UW Huskies have also gotten shout-outs. Pearl Jam even re-tweeted the light show Hall made in their honor.  

So how does Hall come up with all these different ideas?

“I don’t want to sound like a hippie,” said Hall, “but I drink wine, listen to Phish, and make light shows.”

All done from a program on his computer, Hall has long been fascinated with the collaboration between lights and music at concerts. The Wheel has kind of been his foray into their collaboration - on a much larger scale than he ever dreamed.

“I’m in charge of everything about the lights on the wheel,” said Hall. “All 500,000 of them – when they’re broken, we have to hire people to repel down and fix them – sometimes I even have to.”

The owners have been very supportive and encouraging with Hall’s work. 

“You’ll notice that I’ve been learning and getting a lot better as time goes on,” said Hall. “Last year’s Valentine’s Day show was just a heart, this year it’s going to be so much better.”

Check out @Pier57Wheel on Twitter and Facebook to see more of The Wheel’s light shows and pictures, and the photo gallery for some of Hall’s personal favorites. 

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