Shedding new light on the Texas Street Bridge

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 WWII. 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 $2.4M 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 $1M donation from Dr. and Sandra George Bakowski that 375 Color Kinetic LEDs by Signify Lighting Company 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 $1M 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.

“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,” says 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 (SRAC) is enlisting an entire team of artists, designers, and IT professionals to create and program this state-of-the-art LED bridge lighting system. SRAC is also counting on this team to commit to using the project as a pipeline for training young artists for new professional art careers.

“Shreveport is alight with creativity, talent and public-private cooperation,” says SRAC Ex. Dir. Pam Atchison.  “The BAKOWSKI Bridge of Lights is going to astound people with its interactive and constantly morphing colors, shapes, and forms.  It will be a show-stopping statement on the skyline of our two cities—many designed and programmed by our own NWLA Artists.”  Additionally, 5th grade and High School students from nine Title I Schools in Caddo Parish Public Schools along with students from Southern University-Shreveport, Bossier Parish Community College, and students in the VOA Lighthouse Afterschool Program are designing LIGHT SHOWS.  These students have been studying the principles of LED LIGHT DESIGN and PROGRAMMING with Jason Lyons, a Broadway Lighting Designer, along with a team of local Artists who are teaching the classes monthly at Sci-Port.  Artists include James Marks, John Lomax, Mimi Webb, and Austen Jennings.  Curriculum Specialists are Jennifer Johnson and Judy Smithson.  The educational program is funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Community Foundation of North Louisiana, Alta B. and John Franks Foundation, and the City of Shreveport.

The opening “LIGHT IT UP” Celebration is slated for Tuesday, February 22, 2022 – or 2sday 2-22-22 – a date that won’t be repeated for 100 years!  The Celebration 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 of the “BAKOWSKI Bridge of Lights” on the Texas Street Bridge.  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 make history!  This is an opportunity to participate in the Opening ON the Bridge.  To participate in the ceremony, you will pay $222.22, which puts you front and center on the Bridge on 2-22-22!  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. 

The ceremony welcomes the happy couple with two attendants, photographs with a giant wedding cake, champagne toast, and a “first dance” to a light show choreographed by William (Bill) Joyce, Academy Award-Winning filmmaker and best-selling author.  This is the light design that will debut the “BAKOWSKI Bridge of Lights” on the Texas Street Bridge. 

Wedding and Vow Renewal couples are also entered into a drawing for a honeymoon weekend at Margaritaville Resort Casino with a deluxe balcony suite overlooking the “BAKOWSKI Bridge of Lights” on the Texas Street Bridge and dinner at Jimmy’s Steakhouse with breakfast in the Riverview Café.

Register for a Wedding, Vow, or BFF Renewal at TexasStreetBridge.com

2.    “Adopt a Light” and see your light in person ON the Bridge!  Anyone and everyone may give the gift of LED LIGHT for just $222.22.  It’s the perfect holiday gift that will bring light and joy all year long!  With your donation of $222.22, 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 – or the light that you gift to someone! Adopt your LED LIGHT at TexasStreetBridge.com

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; he says, “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. It’s going to be the heartbeat that courses life between our two cities!”

Keith Hanson, Chief Technology Officer and Smart Cities Director for the City of Shreveport will be the primary IT professional programming the lights for the bridge.  Hansen is excited about multiple pieces of the BAKOWSKI Bridge project, especially a 10-foot model to be created to give his team of programmers an opportunity to push artists’ animation from the computer screen to the model before bringing it to life on the ”BAKOWSKI Bridge of Lights” on the Texas Street Bridge.

“Bill Joyce and I have worked together on projects, but this is something no one will be able to ignore.  This work is a cool blend of the ideas and skills of technologists and artists. As technologists, we will be bringing Bill’s and other artists’ creative vision to life on a 3,000 foot canvas 90 feet over the Red River. I will also have the opportunity to mentor young minds in art and technology to hopefully catapult them into a new career. That’s game on for me!” says Hanson.

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 2022 with a series of RED RIVER “LIGHT IT UP” FESTS that will take place on the First Friday of each month on alternating sides of the Red River. Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins, Bossier City Mayor Tommy Chandler, and the Shreveport-Bossier Convention & Tourist Bureau are supporting the unique interaction with live entertainment, an arts market, street performers, and a food truck market.

“We think the energy and excitement of the BAKOWSKI Bridge of Lights has endless possibilities for uniting Bossier and Shreveport as never before,” said Robin Jones, Executive Director for the Bossier Arts Council. “It will be an interactive public art piece that helps spark energy into the East Bank District of Bossier City and serve as a catalyst for economic development along the Louisiana Boardwalk in Bossier and Shreveport.”

Stacy Brown, CDME, President/CEO Shreveport/Bossier Convention & Tourist Bureau is also excited about the bridge. “The BAKOWSKI Bridge of Lights on the Texas Street Bridge will provide an iconic landmark that ties Shreveport and Bossier City together in a way that resonates with residents and visitors. It will also be a unique tool to entice conventions and events to NWLA with the opportunity to customize the lights to showcase their events.”

The transformation of the Bridge will be a beacon for attractions and special occasions. People can purchase bridge lighting designs for special celebrations and announcements; lighting programs can feature Causes such as Breast Cancer Awareness Month; Casinos, the Aquarium and Sci-Port can offer “viewing” opportunities; and major I-20 interchanges will invite visitors to drive the animated light experience.

Funding for the “BAKOWSKI Bridge of Lights” on the Texas Street Bridge comes from Dr. and Mrs. George BAKOWSKI, the Red River Waterway Commission, the Louisiana Public Service Commission, the Shreveport Downtown Development Authority, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Will Atkins.

When the switch is flipped on the BAKOWSKI Bridge of Lights, 2uesday, 2-22-22 (Tuesday, February 22, 2022), William Joyce 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.”

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