They’re scheduled to hit the kill switch on the Bay Bridge’s Bay Lights at 8 p.m. sharp Sunday night, as a private fundraiser donor drive for another $11 million has apparently come up short.
It was literally ten years ago to the day this coming Sunday, on March 5, 2013, that the Bay Lights were first illuminated on the Bay Bridge, a project by Burning Man LED artist Leo Villareal, whose since moved on to lighting large urban structures, notably the “Buckyball” sculpture at the Exploratorium. But once the Bay Lights went up, they started breaking right away (the first installation was only intended to last a couple of years), thanks to the weather and wind conditions high above the Bay.
But then some well-heeled donors contributed to not only keep the Bay Lights lit, but keep them twinkling all night, and in 2015 the project sponsor Illuminate the Arts struck a ten-year deal to keep the lights on until 2025.
They will not make it until 2025, in. fact, they will be shut off literally on the day of on their tenth anniversary. We noted in January that the Bay Lights would go dark in March if Illuminate the Arts could not raise an additional $11 million for maintenance on the 25,000 LED lights, news we learned from a Heather Knight Chronicle article that seemed an ideal bat-signal for interested donors. But the $11 million seems to not have been raised, and NBC Bay Area reports that the Bay Lights will go dark on Sunday.
And they won’t even go all night Sunday night. Illuminate the Arts has posted a Bay Lights Go Dark event, saying “On March 5th at 8pm, on the 10th anniversary of its initial Grand Lighting, the artwork will go dark.”
Should Illuminate the Arts raise that $11 million in private donations, they promise “twice as many lights” that would be “far sturdier,” according to Knight’s Chronicle piece. That piece adds that “Instead of just twinkling on the bridge’s north side, visible only to those living in the northern part of San Francisco and Marin, the lights will adorn the south sides of the same cables too,” in a version that creators dub “Bay Lights 360.”
ICYMI: The clock is clicking on the Bay Lights, as the great @hknightsf reported last week. And as far as I'm concerned, their loss would would be no loss at all. In the words of SEO gurus everywhere, here's why: https://t.co/pqQQgqy2QG— John King (@JohnKingSFChron) January 21, 2023
But if these are the last three or four nights for the Bay Lights, some people wouldn’t mind. Chronicle urban design critic John King famously dissed the Bay Lights in 2014 as "the visual equivalent of background music." He reiterated that dismay this past January, calling them a “1.8-mile-long screen saver,” and “a pleasant gimmick in a setting that doesn’t need gimmicks and hype.”
That said, if you really want to see the Bay Lights stay on, you can donate to save the Bay Lights. That fundraiser, regrettably, only shows $2,487 in contributions at the moment.
Image: Illuminate the Arts