SAN FRANCISCO – Arts nonprofit Illuminate, which is leading the effort to restore The Bay Lights, has secured more than 80% of the philanthropic funds needed to begin work on the 1.8-mile art project on the side of the Bay Bridge.

With recent $500,000 and $200,000 pledges, Illuminate has now raised over $8.2M in pledges for the artwork, which has been dormant since the nonprofit turned off the lights on March 5. Less than $1.8M is now needed to start the project.

“We’re gratified, humbled, and wildly optimistic,” said Illuminate CEO Ben Davis, who first envisioned the lights in 2010. The vision was brought to life by artist Leo Villareal, who will again provide the artistic magic. “The outpouring of support for this piece has been breathtaking.“

While $11M is required to complete the world-renowned project, Illuminate has announced plans to begin work once $10M in major donor gifts has been pledged. The major gift breakdown is as follows:

  • Five $1M gifts 
  • Five $500,000 gifts
  • One $200,000 gift
  • Four $100,000 gifts
  • Three $50,000 gifts

In addition to the major gift campaign, a $1M public crowdfunding campaign has already raised nearly $500,000 from 900 donors. The public campaign will continue during installation of the new 50,000 LED art piece, estimated to be 8-10 months. 

“We still need a few more heroes to step forward to carry us over the threshold,” said Davis, who is seeking to fund the effort exclusively through private philanthropy. “Just a few more people who love public art and San Francisco can get this project rolling.”

Once completed the lights will be visible on both sides of the bridge, making it possible to view them throughout the city, on Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island, and in parts of the East Bay, including Alameda, Oakland and Emeryville, and Richmond.

Illuminate recently completed the Summer of Awe in San Francisco, a series of installations on iconic structures in the city, including Coit Tower, Sutro Tower, Nob Hill and Market Street.

For more information, contact Ben Davis at or David Hatfield at