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Bay Bridge set to shine with massive 25,000-light display

The Golden Gate Bridge might be one of San Francisco's most beloved landmarks, but come Tuesday night, it's another bridge's time to shine.

That's when 25,000 LED lights will illuminate the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, the grand opening of a massive public art installation designed to honor the span's 75-year history.

Billed as the "world's largest LED light sculpture" at 1.8 miles wide and 500 feet high, "The Bay Lights" is the brainchild of Ben Davis, chairman of the nonprofit Illuminate the Arts. Davis admitted a fondness for San Francisco's often-overlooked bridge — which opened six months earlier than its famous sister — and said the 75th anniversary provided a good opportunity to do something special.

"To be clear, I love the Golden Gate Bridge," he said. "The Bay Bridge just has a special place in my heart."

Davis approached Leo Villareal, an artist known for his large-scale light structures, who created a piece Davis described as "totally extraordinary."

The individually-programmed lights are designed to create a "never-repeating, dazzling display" across the bridge's west span, according to the project's website. The lights will shine from dusk until 2 a.m. until 2015. Davis said an extended run was possible, but the piece would probably come down so the bridge can undergo scheduled maintenance.

Total costs for the project are estimated at $8 million, which will be raised through private donations, according to the project's website. About $6 million has been collected so far, from a list of donors including new Yahoo! Chief  Executive Marissa Mayer and Gmail developer Paul Buccheit.

Organizers have mapped out the best views of Tuesday's 9 p.m. lighting ceremony, listing hotels, restaurants and public spaces stretching from San Francisco to Sausalito. The recommended locations can be found online.

Davis said his team was "delighted to unleash" their work.

"I think it's what art does well: It reminds us of what's already there," he said. "When a community comes together for a shared belief, anything is possible. ... 'The Bay Lights' is proof."


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— Kate Mather

Follow Kate Mather on Twitter or Google+.

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