'Bakowski Bridge of Lights' coming to Shreveport

Bridges have been bringing people together to share experiences for centuries: The London Bridge that we all sang about "falling down" as children; the Brooklyn Bridge over which P.T. Barnum led 21 elephants; and the Ponte Vecchio Bridge in Florence -- the only Florentine bridge to survive World War II.

Over the last decade, cities from London to Dubai, Singapore to San Francisco have transformed their bridges into breathtaking canvasses of light illuminating the rivers and reinvigorating the cities where these sprawling structures make their connections. This innovative public art approach is breathing new life into cities.

A combined private and public sector commitment are equipping Shreveport and Bossier City to commit $2.4 million to this dynamic architectural lighting trend and painting a spectacular palette of LED light, art, color and creativity over the Red River with the "Bakowski Bridge of Lights" on the Texas Street Bridge.

It is in large part due to a $1 million donation from Dr. and Sandra George Bakowski that 375 Color Kinetic LEDs by Signify Lighting Co. will interactively illuminate 2,982 feet of what opened in 1934 as the Long/Allen Bridge.

Dr. George and Sandra Bakowski made the donation of the funds to procure the LED lights; the Red River Waterway Commission made the commitment of $1 million to install the lights with additional support from the Louisiana Public Service Commission to provide new LED roadway lighting.

The new interactive LED lighting heralds a transformational era of urban design pairing artists with technology experts to harness the power of artful lighting. It will transform the cityscapes of Shreveport/Bossier City and unite the communities and their economies, officials say.

"The Shreveport/Bossier City communities have supported my optometry practice for 45 years, and Sandra and I have decided to give back in a way that brings these cities alive with light, instills civic pride, and unites the people like nothing else will," said Dr. George Bakowski. "I hope ours is the first step in incentivizing others to contribute to a new era of vitality for our area of Northwest Louisiana."

As the designated "Public Art Arm" of the city of Shreveport, the Shreveport Regional Arts Council is enlisting an entire team of artists, designers, and IT professionals to create and program this state-of-the-art LED bridge lighting system.

"The Bakowski Bridge of Lights is going to astound people with its interactive and constantly morphing colors, shapes, and forms," SRAC Executive Director Pam Atchison said. It will be a show-stopping statement on the skyline of our two cities."

The opening "Light It Up" celebration is slated for Tuesday, Feb 22. The event will feature a giant symbol of new life, LED love and unity through a massive group wedding on the bridge.

On New Year's Eve, 1993, there were 64 weddings on the bridge and Tom Carlton was the Justice of the Peace. According to Atchison, "Not a year has gone by in these 29 years that someone doesn't call to ask when we will have another wedding ceremony or a vow renewal on the Bridge. We are doing it now."

Everyone is invited to participate in the opening. There are three ways to participate:

1. You may "get hitched" on the "Bakowski Bridge and light your way to happily ever after!" There will be a group wedding, the LED celebration of vow renewals, and a chance to make a "BFF commitment" to a great friend or partner. This is an opportunity to participate in the Opening ON the Bridge. To participate in the ceremony, you will pay $222.22, that puts you front and center on the bridge. The group ceremony will be conducted by a Justice of the Peace under a specially designed wedding light show by Broadway lighting designer Jason Lyons.

(For all the details -- and there are a lot of them -- or to register for a wedding, vow, or BFF renewal go to TexasStreetBridge.com online.)

2. "Adopt a Light" and see your light in person on the bridge! Anyone and everyone may give the gift of an LED light for just $222.22. With your donation you get to select the color of the light, dedicate -- or keep --your light with a certificate of authenticity, and you and a guest are invited to "see" your light from on the bridge during the opening celebration. There are special viewing nights four times a year when you can bring friends and families to see your light

(Adopt your LED LIGHT at TexasStreetBridge.com online)

3. "Come on down to the Riverfront" -- Both Shreveport and Bossier City boast great locations to see the celebration and view the first light shows. The city of Shreveport and Shreveport Regional Arts Council will have a large digital wall to view the weddings and vow renewals from the Riverfront Amphitheatre. The public event is free for everyone and the best views of the light shows and fireworks are from the Shreveport Riverfront Amphitheatre and the Bossier Boardwalk.

The "Light It Up" opening ceremony starts at dusk – 5:30 pm, with the weddings and vow renewals, dancing, and celebrating until 9:00 pm.

William Joyce is working on his light show, which will include choreographed music and fireworks.

"It will be like nothing I have ever done before -- a fundamental shift in our skyline, turning the bridge into a light sculpture in a dynamic, ever-changing way and pushing technology as far as we can push it to see what we can accomplish," he said. "It's going to be the heartbeat that courses life between our two cities!"

The Bossier Arts Council and the Shreveport Regional Arts Council will debut the new lighting designs of the "Bakowski Bridge of Lights" starting in June with a series of Red River "Light It Up" festivals that will take place on the First Friday of each month on alternating sides of the Red River.

When the switch is flipped on the "Bakowski Bridge of Lights" on Feb 22 (2-22-22), Joyce said he hopes "thousands of people will line the riverbanks on both sides to watch the bridge become a living, breathing entity illuminating the river as it comes to life in a pulsating, crescendo of music and energy unlike anything we've ever seen."

(Information is the story was provided by the Shreveport Regional Arts Council, Central Artstation, 801 Crockett St., Shreveport, Louisiana. You can contact them by phone at 318-673-6500. For updates and additional information, visit shrevearts.org or TexasStreetBridge.com online.)

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