Lighting up the night with the Anthony Wayne Bridge

. February 21, 2017.
The Anthony Wayne Bridge
The Anthony Wayne Bridge

One way to bring a space to life is to play with the lighting. The Anthony Wayne Bridge, commonly called simply the High Level Bridge and one of three scenic overpasses that lend style and shape to the downtown skyline, is the perfect subject for a lighting makeover.

Kept in the dark

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) began renovating the bridge in the spring of 2012, taking three years to get the 81-year-old bridge back into shape. More recently, ODOT began painting the bridge, which according to its website won’t be done until November of this year.

While currently there are only streetlights, ODOT originally planned to spend $600,000 to replace the more prominent lighting on the suspension portion of the bridge. But that plan has recently turned into a public art project, spearheaded by Susan Reams and visual artist Erwin Redl.


Local artist Erwin Redl will be bringing a similar light design to Toledo.

World-class presentation

A longtime art advocate, Reams brought this project to the forefront. When it comes to Toledo, “I have world-class in my mind,” she said. “Back in the early ’80s, I remember flying over New York and thinking that it would be nice if Toledo could light their bridges that way.” Ream started the 1% for Art program— a local ordinance adopted in 1977 that designates 1 percent of the city’s Capital Improvement Budget for purchasing, conserving and/or educating the public about art.

City engineers and ODOT agreed to put up the original $600,000 if Reams could raise an additional $300,000. “It took about five months,” she explained. “I find that if you ask, corporations like to be involved with community projects if they make the city a better place to live.”

Seeing the light

Reams sought out Erwin Redl as the artist best-suited for this project. Based in Bowling Green and New York City, Redl frequently travels around the world, installing visual art projects. In 2013, Redl produced Floating, In Silence at the Toledo Museum of Art’s Glass Pavilion.

“It’s a great honor to get to do something locally,” said Redl. “I do a great deal of national and international projects, and it feels great to be acknowledged here in Toledo.”

Redl employs a wide array of background knowledge, often drawing from experience in architecture, drawing, music composition, light art, and other various forms of visual art. “Light is a wonderful medium for art because it’s not something that you just grasp physically,” he said. “Similar to music, it has the capacity to completely surround you. It completely envelops you and you kind of dive into it. It has a very corporeal impact.”

Using multicolored lights to alter the look and feel of the downtown skyline, Redl’s plan for the bridge incorporates his aesthetic of “very slow motion, very slow-moving color patterns. In the end, ODOT has to approve of my lighting because of safety standards,” he explained. “But beyond that, I have the artistic freedom to create what I want.”

When will it be completed?

With repainting currently underway, and expected to be in progress for most of this year, the lighting project isn’t due to be completed until 2019.