We Wanna Be Friends With Bay Lights Visionary Ben Davis


In 2010, Ben Davis had a thought: "What if the Bay Bridge was used as a canvas of light?"

In 2013, the western span of the bridge was catapulted out of her Cinderella story as the Golden Gate's uglier sister and into celebrity status with The Bay Lights25,000 LED lights programmed to create awesome patterns. And a year later, the work of Ben Davis and Leo Villareal is still mesmerizing. 

But Ben isn't stopping there. His next idea to illuminate the city landscape is Lightrailthe world's first subway-responsive light sculpture, which would reflect the public transportation madness happening below your feet with color and light suspended above Market Street. Davis is calling it a "form of civic activation." We're calling it, downright beautiful.

We caught up with the Glen Park resident to ask him seven essential questions about his life in San Francisco: 

1. What neighborhood do you currently call home? 

Glen Park is where I landed in 1994 when I moved to SF from Boston. It’s a delightful neighborhood, full of locally owned shops and one of the city’s greatest parks, Glen Canyon. 

2. What's your favorite thing to eat in SF?

It’s purely emotional: Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack in the Outer Mission. My daughter and I used to eat there routinely before she left forever...I mean for college.

3. Perfect night on the town?

Anywhere I can share a dinner table with interesting people. Bonus points if there’s a view of the Bay Lights.

4. Where do you go for down time?

For me, down time is to take a run to the top of Twin Peaks to see the 360 degree view of the Bay Area. I have my own form of meditation where I focus on the peak of Mt. Diablo and let my thoughts be unstructured and expansive.

5. What's your favorite place to go on a day trip?

I’m happiest on my road bike. The ability to leave my front door and roll over the Golden Gate Bridge is why I moved here.

6. Quick-fire round

Burrito or Burger: Burger—and please don’t ask me if I’d like a salad instead of fries.

Presidio or Golden Gate Park: Let’s ride bikes and visit both.

BiRite or Mitchell's: Mitchell’s, just down the street.

Bike or MUNI: Do you really have to ask?  

Fort Mason or Dolores Park: Dolores Park, for the contact high.

The Independent or the Fillmore: I’m going with the Warfield. I enjoy the creative energy of the mid-Market area.

Baker Beach or Ocean Beach: Baker Beach. The view of the Golden Gate is magic.

7. Three words that describe your life in SF?

It is brilliant!

Illuminate the Arts and Crowdtilt have teamed up to raise 1.2 million dollars, a portion of the cost to keep The Bay Lights shining until 2026. Everyone has an opportunity to either fund a “digital gift of light” or download the riveting documentary “Impossible Light” for their donation. Donate here.

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