Before COVID-19 upended plans for 2020, the Democratic National Committee was scheduled to kick off in Milwaukee this week.
As the community continues to adjust to the new realities of 2020, the “Light the Hoan” project released an update outlining its plan to illuminate a path forward. The hope is to give Milwaukee something to celebrate, with the completion of the first phase of the project.
Enough funding has been raised to move ahead with installing lights on the west side of the bridge, allowing it to be lit later this summer. All funds raised for the lighting, installation, and maintenance were raised privately between May of 2018 and January 2020. No public money has been involved.
“While we’re all disappointed that this pandemic robbed Milwaukee of its opportunity to sit at the center of the global stage as scheduled for 2020, we’re incredibly proud of all the work and partnerships that went into this project moving ahead this year, when Milwaukee needs it the most,” said Ian Abston, co-founder of Light the Hoan.
Following a two-year campaign by the group of civic and business leaders, the development is a key milestone in the project. After installation and testing of the west side lights, a community celebration will be held in late Summer and the bridge will be lit daily thereafter. Light the Hoan has worked in partnership with the Wisconsin DOT for approval and oversight of the light installation, which will begin in late July. The Milwaukee community will begin to see test lighting starting in September, prior to the official lighting ceremony.
“In times of crisis, light can be a symbol of hope and comfort. We know that lighting a bridge doesn’t solve our health or social challenges, but, from day one, we wanted this project to be about more than lights on a bridge,” said Michael Hostad, co-founder of Light the Hoan. “To that end, moving forward with lighting the Hoan allows us to demonstrate that mission through programs like Code the Hoan, which creates unique STEM education opportunities for local students who will be able to program the lights on the bridge.”
With Phase 1 moving forward, the Light the Hoan team will continue to fundraise the last $1.1 million to light the east side of the bridge. Beyond animation and changing colors, the lights can be synchronized to respond to external events such as home runs during Brewers games, big plays at the Fiserv Forum, and even live music at Summerfest.
“In addition to a movement by the millennial generation and building partnerships across our community, this project represents the progress and resilience of our city,” added Abston. “When all other options were off the table, we found a way to get this done, and we’re incredibly proud to move it forward to inspire the people of Milwaukee. I’m excited about the impact our generation can have on our skyline and our community.”
The program also has the opportunity to provide STEM opportunities to Milwaukee students. The educational initiative Code the Hoan will allow youth to programming the bridge lights in partnership with Islands of Brilliance. The effort provides technical capabilities for neurodiverse students on the autism spectrum, preparing the for higher education and workforce placement.
In addition, local non-profits are the focus of the organization’s “Shine a Light” program. One night per month the bridge will be lit in colors representing selected nonprofits, and a percentage of all bulb sales from that month will go to support them. They includes: 88.9 Radio MKE, ACTS Housing, Black Box Fund, Boys and Girls Club, IC Stars Imagine MKE, Islands of Brilliance, Urban Underground, United Community Center, and We Got This.