Art project wants to light up Market Street


Market Street could soon be lit up with lights sparkling amid its overhead wires, pending an approval from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

Illuminate the Arts, the same organization that brought the art installation “Bay Lights” onto the San Francisco side of the Bay Bridge, is seeking to install two strands of LED lights from Van Ness Avenue and Market Street to The Embarcadero.

The art installation “LightRail” by artists George Zisiadis and Stefano Corazza is “the world’s first subway response light sculpture,” according to Illuminate the Arts.

The light installation would mimic in real-time the movement of BART and Muni trains underground using the APIs of both transit agencies. Trains would be distinguished by different colors.

The strands of lights will be installed in the center of Market Street above the Muni power lines and anchored to existing light poles. The art installation will use over 124,000 lights.

After BART and Muni have shut down for the night, small pulses of light will distribute along the stands of lights to simulate the passage of pedestrians.

Ben Davis, founder of Illuminate the Arts, said Monday just how important Market Street is in San Francisco during the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development committee, which approved to move the project forward to the full board:

“It’s just this innately the civic spine of San Francisco.”

While the project celebrates mass transit, Davis said he was most excited about the project’s ability to:

“… use light and energy and movement to create a sense of community up and down the length of Market Street that seamlessly permeates some of those economic and emotional divides that have kept that street somewhat separated for almost half of century.”

Davis said the art installation will be privately funded. Illuminate the Arts will be responsible for the installation and maintenance costs. He said the organization plans to start seeking donations at the beginning of 2015.

The project has already received approvals from several city agencies including the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the Arts Commission and Department of Public Works.

The Historic Preservation Commission also approved the organization to use the historic Path of Gold light standards to use as an anchor for the lights.

Davis said he hopes to get the project ready in time for the 83rd U.S. Conference of Mayors, which takes place in San Francisco from June 19 to 22 next year.

The lights will stick around on Market Street for approximately four years.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. A San Francisco native, he has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Send tips to or at Twitter @Jerold_Chinn.

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