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Sparkle & Fade: The Bay Lights Come Alive Next Week

Courtesy of the Bay Lights

Billed as the world's largest LED light sculpture and one of the biggest public art feats in history, The Bay Lights is poised to elevate our city on a global scale. The brainchild of New York artist Leo Villareal and San Francisco PR wunderkind Ben Davis, this monumental project is the result of relentless dedication—a true gift to our city.

Just in case you haven't heard the specs yet, here it is in numbers—25,000 LED nodes, strung along 5 miles' worth of vertical suspension cables, measuring 1.8 miles and more than 500 feet, $11,000 in energy costs over the next two years, and estimated to generate $97 million for the local economy. You do the math.  

Said to be largely inspired by its environment (waves, wind, and traffic patterns on the bridge), The Bay Lights is a product of its placement—an abstraction of dynamically generated algorithms that embodies a perfect marriage of art and technology in the country's epicenter of innovation. The 100% privately funded installation (yes, that's $8 million from generous individual donors!), which has transformed the western span of the Bay Bridge into a canvas for the finest of new media art, will finally come alive on Tuesday, 3/5 at 9 p.m. and will continue to shine brightly from sunset to midnight for the next two years.

From Marin and the Golden Gate Bridge to Telegraph Hill and the Embarcadero or even aboard your friend's boat on the bay, there are endless places to watch the grand lighting (check out our contributing food blogger Marcia Gagliardi's post on where to eat and watch here and the full list of public viewing points here), but be forewarned—this opening ceremony is so highly anticipated that the waterfront will likely feel like the mob scene of July 4th. For those who want to see this tour de force in peace, there's going to be a live, one-hour, multi-camera web stream on The Bay Lights site provided by MediaOne from 8:30–9:30 p.m. (PST) with a soundscape composed by James Healy.

For more behind-the-scenes coverage, look out for 7x7's conversation with Leo Villareal and Ben Davis in the April issue, which hits newsstands on Mon. 3/25.

BONUS: Art.com is selling an exclusive, limited-edition print for $300 so that we can all preserve this piece of history. But limited-edition means small quantity—they are only selling 100 prints starting today (Friday, 3/1). A portion of the proceeds will benefit The Bay Lights, and each print comes with a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist himself. If flashy is your thing, Illuminode is offering an interactive LED pendant (also $300) available here starting Wednesday 3/6.