San Francisco’s Bay Bridge Goes Dark After A Decade of Light And Seeks Help To Bring It Back Bigger and Brighter.

SF bay bridge lights 360

Ten years ago this week artist Leo Villareal and the group ILLUMINATE celebrated the 75th anniversary of the San Francisco Bay Bridge by draping it in light. The art installation titled “The Bay Lights” had 25,000 glowing LED lights installed on the North side suspender cables to illuminate the bridge that connects San Francisco to the East Bay. Those driving on the bridge were unable to see them but those viewing the bridge were treated to a lovely light show daily from sunset until 2 am.

SF Bay Bridge Lights 360
SF Bay Bridge illuminated with 25,000 LED lights, 2013, photo: Getty images
The computerized LED installation initially went up in 2013 bay bridge
The computerized LED installation was set to never repeat the light patterns

Controlled by a computer program to produce abstract patterns across the span, which weren’t meant to repeat, the Bay Lights installation was initially supposed to be temporary, running for only 2 years, but due to popularity, donors helped fund the project to keep the Bay Bridge lit as long as they could.

The Bay Lights installation, 2013
The Bay Lights installation seen from  SF, 2013
Artist Leo Villareal with his computerized Bay Lights installation in 2013
Artist Leo Villareal with his computerized Bay Lights installation in 2013
SF Bay Bridge Lights 360
The Bay Lights, installation detail

Fast forward a decade and due to time, wear and weather, the current system of LEDs was failing at a rate faster than could be repaired and on March 5th at 8pm, the 10th anniversary of its initial Grand Lighting, the artwork went dark.

SF Bay Bridge Lights 360

Now a crowdfunding campaign has been launched to install an updated installation on the bridge. Unless they can raise enough money via crowdfunding* for a new system custom engineered to perform in the harsh environmental conditions of San Francisco Bay, the bridge will remain in the dark.

SF Bay Bridge Lights 360

Illuminate is now asking for your help with your help so that the Bay Lights by artist Leo Villareal can return more magically than ever. With double the number of programmable LEDs to nearly 50,000, the new proposed artwork would be visible to communities around the Bay and, for the first time, the lights could be safely visible to drivers on the Bay Bridge, creating a world-class nighttime public art portal into San Francisco.

The San Francisco-based art nonprofit Illuminate is leading this effort and asking for your help to return this public art masterpiece collectively, one dollar, one hundred dollars, or $1M at a time. In total, $11M is needed for their return. They are raising ten $1M gifts from major philanthropists. This crowdfunding campaign seeks to raise $1M in smaller gifts, allowing everyone to participate. At the time this post was written, 6% of that remaining one million has been pledged.

Artist Leo Villareal