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Monday, November 3, 2014

Illuminate The Arts Ramps Up Ambition for Innovative New Project: Light Rail

Posted By on Mon, Nov 3, 2014 at 12:35 PM

click to enlarge Artist's rendering of "Light Rail" - ILLUMINATE THE ARTS
  • Illuminate The Arts
  • Artist's rendering of "Light Rail"

There's always a been bit of a rift between San Francisco's wide-eyed tourists and its sardonic locals, but The Bay Lights, since its 2013 installation, has managed to bridge that gap. Everyone loves those shimmering strands of light, glittering up and down the expanse of the Bay Bridge, and many San Franciscans have felt the need to be near the water's edge near dusk to catch the exact moment when the Lights flicker on and begin their luminous nocturnal dance over the Bay.

"The Bay Lights are supposed to connect us," says Ben Davis, whose original idea for lighting the bridge led to Leo Villareal's The Bay Lights. "They defy polarization, and reflect the values of of the people that support it."

  • Gil Riego Jr.

Davis is the founder, president, and CEO of Illuminate The Arts, a non-profit group working to bring widely-accessible public art to the masses. The group was originally founded to finance and produce The Bay Lights, but due to the overwhelmingly positive response to the Lights, has carried on in its artistic endeavors to new projects.

In the time following the installation and incredible success of Lights, the group has struggled in creating a piece as awe-inspiring as its debut. An installation on Mid-Market, Let There Be, was the group's first production following The Bay Lights. The piece, designed to embody the are's history and creativity, garnered nowhere near the response of its predecessor, and, despite its promised year-long installation, is currently on hiatus pending public support. A piece called Pi In The Sky, produced on three occasions in S.F., NYC and Austin, TX, involved jets sky-writing the never-ending digits of pi. It was a return to the large-scale ambition of Lights, but the simplicity and temporary nature of the piece prevented it from achieving the popularity of The Bay Lights.

To say these pieces are not artistically valuable would be slander; both were original and fetching in their own way. But when your signature production is something as jaw-dropping and iconic as The Bay Lights, simple projections and installations can seem a bit underwhelming.

Fortunately for San Franciscans, Illuminate The Arts' newest project, Light Rail, promises the ambition, scale, and artistic potential of The Bay Lights. Light Rail will involve the installation of multi-colored LED lights (similar to the ones used for The Bay Lights) that will speed up and down Market Street in sync with the BART and Muni trains running underground. Upon its completion, Light Rail will be the world's first subway-responsive light sculpture.

Installing LED lights on San Francisco's busiest street is sure to be no easy task, but Davis remains optimistic, choosing to take any challenges in stride: "I don't view [obstacles] as a problem. They're a feature of the job we do. We're forcing people to rethink things across the board. People are excited about it, we've gotten lots of support."

The project hasn't been given a release date yet, but Davis is confident that Light Rail will be soon be a fixture on Market. "We're working with a variety of city offices, doing some fine tuning, making great progress."

Along with Light Rail, Illuminate The Arts is also working on gaining the finances to turn The Bay Lights into a more permanent piece, designed to outlive its planned end date in 2015 and continue lighting up the Bay well into the 2020s. This will involve replacing all the LEDs on the bridge with more durable versions, the same ones being used from the beginning for Light Rail. Light Rail is permitted as a temporary installation, but Davis hopes to extend its life as well.

Check out Illuminate The Arts' website to learn more about their work, and check out this promo for Light Rail. It's sure to make riding the F-line a brighter part of your day.

Lightrail - Making mass transit more magical from michelebaggio on Vimeo.

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David L. Garcia


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