Bay Bridge light display goes dark for 11 months

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - Thursday marks exactly two years since lights illuminated the Bay Bridge - turning the structure into public art.

But the Bay Lights project will go dark for the next 11 months. There was a special bittersweet ceremony marking the anniversary Thursday evening.

Each night, shortly before sunset the cascade of 25,000 white LED lights illuminates the bridge - a transformation that grows as the night falls.

"The movement of traffic and water... the sequencing are almost like a mirror of the activity around the bridge," said Leo Villareal, the artist who created "The Bay Lights."

On the last night of illumination Thursday, people came to pay tribute. They held tea lights as they anticipated the return of The Bay Lights.

"It makes you feel kind of amazed. It makes me appreciate living in the city," said Hana Frimeran of San Francisco.

The lights will go dark as the sun rises Friday morning.

They will be taken down so maintenance work can be done on the Bay Bridge's cables.

"The piece has always spoke magic to me," said Ben Davis, the man behind Illuminate the Arts, the nonprofit which came up with the lighting concept.

He says the temporary absence will perhaps make the heart grow fonder.

The project's rebirth promises more robust custom lights designed to withstand the harsh conditions of the San Francisco Bay and become a permanent part of the bridge.

"There's a lot of excitement even as we have a little bit of a bittersweet that we'll miss the lights for the next eleven months," said Davis.

The reinstallation of the lights will cost $4 million and half of that came from Tad Taube, a philanthropist from Woodside who inspired other private donors to come forward.

"This is really the most spectacular thing we've done in San Francisco in many years. It's an incredible signature to our San Francisco Bay.

The artist who created The Bay Lights says it's an incredible honor to have the bridge as his canvas and his work a permanent fixture.

"Anyone can look at it and have a response. You don't have to buy a ticket. You don't have to go into a museum art can come out into the world and it has an important role to play," said Leo Villareal, the artist.

The Bay Lights will once again play a starring role on the Bay Bridge January 2016 to coincide with the Super Bowl's kickoff festivities.

Illuminate the Arts says there will be a special ceremony to welcome the return of the lights.