Crowd-Funding to Keep Leo Villareal’s ‘Bay Lights’ On

Leo Villareal, The Bay Lights (2013), on the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge at night with reflections in the water during an early test of the artwork. Photo by Almonroth, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Leo Villareal‘s The Bay Lights has been illuminating San Francisco’s Bay Bridge for just over a year.

Now, the massive light installation has become such a welcome addition that a crowd-funding campaign to extend the piece’s duration by a decade is underway, according to Tech Crunch.

The project consists of 25,000 low-power LED lights attached to the bridge and illuminated from dusk until dawn. It was originally planned to last for two years, meaning that as of now, the lights will go dark in March 2015.

The installation of the piece, aided by the non-profit organization Illuminate the Arts, cost approximately $10 million, and boasted some big-name donors in the San Francisco tech scene, including Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, well-known angel investor Ron Conway, and entrepreneur Matt Mullenweg.

A campaign called Keep ‘Em Lit Through 2026 is now being run through crowd-funding startup Crowdtilt, in the hopes of reaching a larger pool of people, as opposed to just a few very wealthy donors. In order to keep the lights active for 10 years, they will eventually need to raise $12 million, but this first campaign has a more manageable goal of $1.2 million in 45 days. With over $185,000 already accounted for and 43 days left, it certainly looks promising.

Villareal, who worked as a Silicon Valley programmer in the 1990s before turning to art, creates works with a unique blend of technology and artistry, making them perfect for the tech-heavy culture of San Francisco. Each individual light in The Bay Lights is programmed with a unique software algorithm, making it impossible for the same pattern to ever occur twice.

Illuminate the Arts chairman Ben Davis (not to be confused with Artnet News senior writer Ben Davis) stressed the importance of the project, especially given its public nature: “More people will see The Bay Lights in its two year tenure than will visit the top 15 museums in the United States,” he said. “It’s fine art that people can see, without ever buying a ticket.”

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