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Monday, February 23, 2015

Say Goodbye to Those Pretty Lights on the Bay Bridge

Posted By on Mon, Feb 23, 2015 at 2:48 PM

click to enlarge prettylights.png

If you notice a pall cast over San Francisco next month, it's because it will be literally darker here after the famous Bay Lights are turned off — for now. 

Known for its luminosity and picture-perfect profile, the brilliant display, which consists of 25,000 LED white lights running 1.8 miles across the western span of the Bay Bridge, was installed in 2013, making it the world's largest LED light sculpture. 

Sadly, the glowing monument will go dark on March 5 so Caltrans can do some maintenance on the cables along the bridge. Alas, this is where San Francisco's wealth comes in: Thanks to many donors with lots of money ($4 million to be exact), the lights will be reinstalled in 2016, just in time for the Super Bowl 50.  

But for now, you will have to say goodbye. Here are a few events you can attend to help soften the blow:

  • March 5, 7:30 p.m.: The first 1,000 people to arrive at the patio behind Waterbar (399 The Embarcadero, San Francisco) will receive an LED tea light. Gifted by Illuminate the Arts in appreciation of public support for The Bay Lights, the tea lights will continue to glow while the artwork is removed for bridge maintenance and serve as a reminder that the darkness is only temporary. Artist Leo Villareal and Illuminate the Arts Chief Visionary Officer Ben Davis will speak at 8 p.m.
  • March 6, 5:45 a.m.: Illuminate the Arts will offer free coffee and pastries on the patio behind EPIC Roasthouse (369 The Embarcadero, San Francisco). The Sunrise String Quartet—two violins, a viola and a cello played by members of the San Francisco Symphony—will perform for the last hour of The Bay Lights’ illumination (drama!)
Created by artist Leo Villareal, The Bay Lights has been a must-see attraction for both visitors and locals, who have gotten to enjoy the economic impacts of the light display. The artist's permit is set to expire on March 6 and the sculpture will be removed immediately afterward. 

“Two years is a good, long run for a piece of public art,” Villareal said in a statement. “I am personally very satisfied with the experience and embrace the temporary aspects of the artwork. At the same time, I am humbled and honored that the people of the Bay Area have overwhelmingly expressed their interest in having the light sculpture remain and become part of their daily lives. There is no higher compliment you can pay a work of art than wanting to spend time with it.”

Once the artwork is returned to the bridge in February 2016, it will be gifted to the state for ongoing stewardship. Following the precedent of the necklace lights that were added to the suspension cables in 1986 and became a fixture of the Bay Bridge in 1989, The Bay Lights will become a permanent part of the western span, maintained by Caltrans. 
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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.

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