TODAY   |  March 06, 2013

Elaborate sculpture lights up San Fran bridge

A public art project known as “Bay Lights” came to life in a spectacular fashion Tuesday night in San Francisco, featuring the world’s largest LED light sculpture, which will remain there for the next two years. NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> this pretty image right now at the bay bridge out in the bay area of california. it's been transformed overnight into the world's largest light sculpture. nbc's gabe gutierrez is there. gabe, good morning. pretty backdrop.

>> reporter: yes, it is, matt. it's called the bay lights. the display came to life in spectacular fashion just a few hours ago. not with the flip of a switch, but the tap of a touch pad.

>> five, four, three, two --

>> reporter: in a city that prides itself on bright ideas, this one stands out. the new public art project on san francisco 's bay bridge is being billed as the world's largest l.e.d. light sculpture.

>> the bay bridge is beautiful, toochlt i wanted to find a way to let this bridge shine in the region's consciousness once more.

>> reporter: first opened in 19 1936 , the bay bridge is the lesser known, harder working cousin of the golden gate bridge , carrying more than twice as much annual traffic. to raise the bridge's profile, davis turned to artist leo villarreal, best known for light sculptures in new york and washington, d.c. for this project, called the bay lights, villarreal is using 25,000 white bulbs to illuminate the bridge's 1.8 million.

>> the movement of water, traffic.

>> reporter: the ever-evolving pattern is controlled by a software program on his laptop, ensuring a different look every night. the bay lights follows in the footsteps of other big city projects like the gates in central park and the waterfalls on new york's east river . and like those other famous attractions, the price is right for spectators.

>> what could be better? free show, good friends.

>> reporter: the cost to install and operate the bridge over the next two years will be about $8 million, paid for by private donors, some of whom can see the nightly art display from their homes. matt?

>> gabe, thank you very much. by the way, the nice people of the bay area agreed to keep the lights on that bridge on a little longer for us. normally it goes off at 2:00 am . they've held it for us this morning. so, we appreciate that.

>> for $8 million, private donations to pay for it. and i think the electric bill counts for $7 million of that.

>> the bay bridge to the golden gate bridge , game on.

>> right. can you imagine being the person stringing those lightbulbs up there?

>> wow, that's not a job