Bay Bridge steel to become raw material for California artists

Up to 450 tons of steel beams, rivets and other metalworks from the original San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge will be salvaged, cleaned and made available to artists to create works for public display, officials said on Wednesday.

Applicants must present feasible ideas for projects using the steel as part of a public display or infrastructure, said Lori Fogarty, director of the Oakland Museum, which is facilitating the application process for the Bay Bridge Steel Project.

A panel of judges will begin examining applications in October, she said, on what is expected to be a two-year process.

The application process will be unusual in the art world, because applicants are competing for raw material and must design proposals that fit specifications including a requirement that projects reference the Bay Bridge in some way, Fogarty said.

“It’s not for someone to put a sculpture in their backyard,” Fogarty said. “We have stipulations that the project be available to the public. And we think there may be also projects that are brought forward by civic entities, or universities or libraries where it may not be sculpture, it may be benches or street lighting.”

The tonnage to be set aside represents a tiny fraction of the overall weight of the 1936 cantilevered eastern span of the Bay Bridge, which partially collapsed during the 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 and was repaired before ultimately being dismantled starting in 2013.

The project came about after artists in the community clamored to work with some of the raw material of the bridge as it was being dismantled, Fogarty said.

Over a yearlong process, state and local transit agencies overseeing the bridge agreed and worked to revise contracts with companies hired to dismantle the bridge to allow for the salvage program.

“I sense a lot of excitement in the artist community, and real appreciation that the transit agencies are making this possible, and we can’t wait to see what comes forth,” Fogarty said.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Sandra Maler)

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