The time has come. The installation of 25,000 individual LEDs devised by artist Leo Villareal and known simply as The Bay Lights — a project which has shone each night since March 2013 — will, as of sunrise tomorrow, go dark. But wait! The lights return next February.
The world's largest LED light sculpture was inspired, Villareal has said in interviews, by some of his work and experience at Burning Man, a festival he first attended in 1994 when it was probably still cool. The artwork was commissioned by the private group Illuminate the Arts.
Then, as the Chronicle explains, a year into a two-year "trial" run, due to popular demand for a longer run, Illuminate the Arts pushed for $1.2 million in public donations. That didn't happen, since this is supposed to be free, right? But Caltrans agreed that they would maintain the lights on a long-term basis if Illuminate the Arts were able to raise $4 million, upgrading and re-installing the system (which is happening now) to make it more lasting. Bay Area philanthropist Tad Taube threw down a $2 million donation, and voila!
Anyway, here are some great videos to tide you over until the prodigal project makes its triumphant return, whether John King likes it or not. And videos (and GIFs) because pictures really don't do the dancing lights justice.
“Two years is a good, long run for a piece of public art,” Villareal has 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.”
(Oh yeah, turn of the audio on this next one, it's terribly distracting.)
(Same with this one)
Last, if you're literally up for it, Illuminate the Arts offers free coffee and pastries on the patio behind EPIC Roasthouse (369 The Embarcadero, San Francisco) tomorrow morning at 5:45 a.m. There, The Sunrise String Quartet will play the lights out. If they don't perform "Lights" by Journey, you'll just have request it.