Waterbar Celebrates The Bay Lights’ 5 Year Anniversary

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Waterbar has an excellent view of The Bay Lights
Waterbar has an excellent view of The Bay Lights

Last night a chic group of art aficionados gathered at Waterbar for a celebration that honored The Bay Lights and the group that brought them to life, Illuminate. The sparkling wine was flowing as the stylish crowd mingled, nibbled on crab cakes and shrimp cocktail, and admired the glittering art installation on the Bay Bridge.

Vanessa Inn and Ben Davis
Vanessa Inn and Ben Davis

Illuminate’s mission is to bring large groups of people together to create stunning works of public art. It was founded by Ben Davis and Vanessa Inn with the first project being The Bay Lights. “I knew this was the first bridge to open the bridgification to the Bay area,” Davis said at the event. “There were four days of celebration when it opened in 1936, and then the symmetrically perfect system in the North opened up the Golden Gate and the world’s attention headed that way. I thought, ‘What if there’s some way to let this bridge shine in the region’s consciousness?’ The idea that it could be a canvas of light—I could just sort of feel it.”

The art installation
The art installation

Installation artist Leo Villareal was tapped to design the iconic light sculpture. Every night from dusk till dawn, the westward-facing side of the Bay Bridge lights up. 25,000 white LEDs display changing light patterns that are never repeated. It’s incredibly beautiful. The installation, which was meant to last for two years, opened on March 5, 2013. However, the Bay Bridge’s new look was so beloved by San Franciscans that the installation was made permanent in 2016.

Leo Villareal
Leo Villareal

Although Villareal was not at the party, the hosts FaceTimed him into the event. He was able to toast with the honorable Willie Brown, for whom the western span of the Bay Bridge is named. Brown jokingly referred to it as “his bridge.” Brown said, “Congratulations, to the two of you [Davis and Villareal]. But, more importantly, congratulations to all of you who really implemented the concept and the idea that has become one of the signatures to San Francisco. The bridge lights are exactly that.”

An up close view of the lights
An up close view of the lights

Villareal thanked the former Mayor for his support and praised the Bay Area. “It’s a place of cutting-edge ideas and thinking outside the box,” Villareal said. “Just to be able to create something of such magnitude and beauty. I’m grateful for the opportunity and to connect so many people and to create a monumental piece of public art. It really is transformative.”

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