A bright idea to create the world’s largest LED light sculpture on western span of the Bay Bridge has earned the support of art lovers and the approval of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). Installation of The Bay Lights by internationally acclaimed artist Leo Villareal will begin this month with completion slated for March 2013. The fine art piece will remain on the bridge for two years. Organizers have raised nearly 70 percent of the $8 million in private funding required for the project and now seek $2.5 million in finishing funds.

Viewable from San Francisco and points north, but not by drivers crossing the bridge, The Bay Lights will be 1.8 miles long and 500 feet high. Villareal’s high-tech art features 25,000 individually programmable, energy-efficient LED lights mounted on the vertical cables. Together, the lights will use only $30 per day in electricity.

“It’s my fantasy project. There have been a lot of bridge lightings, but nothing like this,” says Villareal, whose work appears in the permanent collections of museums and in public spaces in New York, Washington D.C., and Istanbul, Turkey. “I’ll incorporate 255 levels of brightness and sequence the lights so that the piece becomes a mirror to its surroundings.”

Caltrans permits to install, maintain and remove the light sculpture were awarded in August, allowing pre-construction activities to begin in September. The first LED lights will be installed in October and planning has begun for a grand lighting ceremony in early March 2013.

Inspired by the 75th anniversary of the Bay Bridge, The Bay Lights is a project of Illuminate the Arts (ITA), a San Francisco-based organization dedicated to the creation and presentation of community-activating public art. ITA hopes to shine a global spotlight on the Bay Area’s cultural community with the installation, which is projected to add $97 million to the local economy.

The Bay Lights is supported by individual patrons, pro bono counsel Morrison & Foerster and corporate sponsor Commune Hotels & Resorts. Dedicated solar panels installed in Davis, Calif. by CleanPath will offset all energy used by The Bay Lights. The official fiscal sponsor of The Bay Lights is ZERO1: The Art and Technology Network. For artist renderings and interviews, images, a complete list of patrons and information on how to give to The Bay Lights, please visit www.thebaylights.org.