By John Ramos

TREASURE ISLAND (KPIX) — When the old eastern span of the Bay Bridge was demolished, people asked that the steel be used to benefit the community.  So it was given to artists to create public art across California.

On Thursday, the Bay Area’s first piece was revealed on Treasure Island.

Some of the steel from the eastern span now makes up the piece entitled “Signal.” Its creator, artist Tom Loughlin, admits there is nothing delicate about the 22-ton ring formed from sections of the bridge’s cantilever structure.

“The history of this steel is part of the piece,” Loughlin explained.  “And as an artist there was no way to avoid it.  And so, I embraced it.”

Crafted from the top supports of the bridge, the sculpture features one of the rotating red lights that used to warn aircraft. If you listen closely, you can hear and feel a periodic low hum, a natural harmonic of the steel that is reminiscent of a fog horn.

Karin Betts with the Bay Area Toll Authority said the artwork accomplishes exactly what they were hoping for.

“This is Bay Bridge steel! This is so cool!” Betts said. “I can touch it, I can put my ear against it, I can hear it. It’s out here for people to interact with. That’s what we wanted.”

Claire Baker was a young girl in Berkeley in the 1930’s. When she passed by the sculpture Thursday morning, she couldn’t resist reaching out to touch what seemed like an old friend.

“My sister, to this day, reminds me of it. And she’s a year younger,” she said. “‘Remember Claire? We sat out in the hills and watched the Bay Bridge being built?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, yeah, I do remember.'”

But the artist says “Signal” is meant to make people think about the consequences, often unintended, that come from the things man creates.

“So the questions I’m asking are about how much do we actually know about what we’re building and how it’s going to operate in the future?” Loughlin said.

As it sits across the Bay, the steel itself stands as a lesson to those in the City who believe they’re building monuments to the future. The message is that nothing lasts forever.

“I mean, everything is temporary,” Loughlin said.  “It turns out the east span of the Bay Bridge was temporary.”

And though it sits on heavy cement footings, the artwork itself may be on borrowed time. The artist says Treasure Island only promised him the spot for five years. After that, the sculpture may be looking for its next home.

“Signal” is located on Treasure Island at the corner of Ninth Street and Avenue of the Palms.  The official public opening is scheduled for this weekend.

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