Leo Villareal’s magical Bay Lights


Tonight, March 5, the western span of the Bay Bridge will be illuminated in the much-anticipated Bay Lights installation, created by internationally acclaimed artist Leo Villareal.

The project will incorporate an “intelligent lighting” system, powered by 25,000 individually programmable LEDs that will be illuminated according to “abstract sequences inspired by the kinetic activity around the bridge,” Villareal explained at a press conference at the San Francisco Ferry Building this afternoon. “It’s not a light show,” the artist noted, and added that he preferred to think of it more as “the equivalent of a digital campfire.”

Villareal, who has worked in software in addition to being an artist, emphasized that the lighting system is highly efficient, using only enough power to cost about $15 per night.

The project has been in the works for two and a half years and under construction for the last six months. Private funders have raised $6 million of the total $8 million needed. The presenting organization is Illuminate the Arts, a nonprofit organization.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, speaking at the press conference, emphasized an economic projection finding that the installation could result in $97 million in local economic activity. He expressed support for it as an important project for generating private support for public art. “This project has unleashed incredible generosity,” showing funders that “art is something exciting, and cool to get behind as a sponsor,” Lee said. “I think it will release even more generosity” for art in San Francisco, he added.

When the Guardian took the opportunity to ask Lee what could be done to help make San Francisco more affordable for artists in general, he responded, “I am very sensitive to that,” and said he was making an extra effort to work with the arts community, particularly those who “want to create art homes and art locations in mid-Market.” Lee added that even tech employees have expressed to him that they value living in a city where arts are thriving, so “we have to make sure there’s the right balance for that.”


Like Ron Conway. Therefore - I hate it. Art should only serve the working class and inspire class solidarity.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Mar. 05, 2013 @ 9:26 pm

San Francisco doesn't need another crappy artist, unless there's money to be made by business. Art is only valuable when it's in the service of making money. And Ed Lee said this will make money. Did you not read the part about 97 million in economic activity?

I don't know how it will make money, but that's not up to me or you to decide. Ed Lee doesn't just pull numbers like that out of his ass. He must've had someone very important in the business community tell him that, in which case it must be true. Maybe it was the same people who estimated how much money SF will make from the America's Cup. In any case, I trust the guy. He got elected with a big mandate, so get with the program Lucretia.

Posted by anon on Mar. 09, 2013 @ 8:45 pm

Even more reason to love San Francisco
She glistens even more as the jewel of the north:)

Posted by Ava on Mar. 05, 2013 @ 10:34 pm

Why all-white lights? All white or all clear = corporate-looking, bland, boring and cold.

A wide spectrum of colored LEDs---and there's a lot available today in color variations for LEDs---would have been a much better choice as I've seen used around the world throughout the year for buildings and bridges. One can get much more variety, color combinations and effects with multi-color LEDs. It would be spectacular to see a gradient rainbow-effect going across one end of the bridge to the other, for example. And that's just one effect. But with all-white there's only so much one can do with that one color. Another example, I know of one skyscraper in another country where the entire outside of the building is permanently installed with beautiful colored LEDs and there's a light show every night of the year from that building in that city for anyone who sees the building even from a distance. It's beautiful.

When will the U.S. catch up?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 06, 2013 @ 2:52 am

It might be a while before I can get out there again to see it. Then, again, the Eiffel Tower was supposed to be temporary as well.

As for the critics here,,,,sheeesh,,,,find something else to complain about.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 06, 2013 @ 8:55 am

"As for the critics here,,,,sheeesh,,,,find something else to complain about."

Why didn't you find something else to complain about? Why didn't you take your own advice and complain about something else other than someone's opinion (which I'm entitled to)? sheeesh...

I believe that's called hypocrisy.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 06, 2013 @ 1:56 pm

but how does it relate to the article? Just curious.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 10:56 am