At a press conference this morning, the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts (BOPA) announced more extensive details for Light City 2017. The festival—which this year is March 31-April 8—will include nearly 30 concerts, a 1.5 mile light installation walk in the Inner Harbor, art installations in eight Baltimore neighborhoods, innovations conferences in six industries, and of course plenty of art along the way.
This year, all of the musical performances will take place at the Inner Harbor Amphitheater at Pratt and Light streets, including regional and national acts like hop-hop star Biz Markie, New Orleans-based Dirty Dozen Brass Band, jam band Papadosio, and six-piece Latin band Ozomatli.
The focal point of Light City is the 1.5 mile light installation walk, sponsored by BGE, which will feature 23 light installations—21 of them new for this year. Two "crowd favorite" art pieces will be returning this year, including "The Peacock" by Tim Scofield and Kyle Miller and "The Pool [Reflect]" by Jen Lewin. With the remaining light pieces come from artists around the world, including France, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Lebanon, Israel, and the UK.
"I look forward to being inspired as we shine a bright light on the place we call home," said Calvin Butler, the CEO of BGE and newly appointed chair of Light City.
Another returning aspect of the festival is Neighborhood Lights, where artists and community groups will work together to design an illuminated piece reflecting the personality of each neighborhood. These pieces will be on display in Hampden, Hamilton-Lauraville, Station North, Little Italy, Coldstream, Waverly, Sandtown-Winchester, and Greater Mondawmin. The 2015 winners of the Sondheim art prize winner, Wickerham & Lomax, will be designing the Station North display.
"I have am so excited about the neighborhoods, since we've added three new ones this year," said Mayor Catherine Pugh. "My hope is we'll eventually get to every neighborhood in the city. I urge visitors, as you come downtown, please go out and visit these neighborhoods. I need people to see what I see every day. It doesn't matter what your address is or what your zip code is. Light City is a great example of that."
The organizers of Light City didn't forget about the little ones and, every night, from 5-8 p.m., Mini Light City will take place in the Kaufman Pavilion with hands-on, illuminated crafts, children's entertainers, and other performing artists. Additionally, a YouthLabs@LightCity program will take place, where students for Baltimore City Public Schools will attend specific conferences designed for them and their interest.
That, of course, is in conjunction with the general Labs@LightCity program, which features conferences from April 3-8 at the Columbus Center. This year, the speakers will be divided into six different industries: health, design, social, green, education, and food. The speakers range from writers, restauranteurs, business people, and even local yo-yo performer Coffin Nachtmahr, who showed off a bit at the press conference today.
In addition, BOPA is encouraging local businesses to light their buildings during the festival, an initiative they're calling "Brilliant Baltimore" and is also proud of the local food and drink offerings that will be on hand, including Dooby's, Ekiben, Sagamore Spirit Rye, staff from the Baltimore Bartenders Guild, and beer from The Brewer's Art, Heavy Seas, and Union Craft Brewing. During the festival, the annual food and drink event The Emproriyum will also be taking place (from April 1-2) in the former Best Buy store on Pratt Street.
"There's so much happening downtown that we wanted to provide something family-friendly, food-friendly, and drink-friendly for anyone looking to add to their Light City experience," says Emporiyum organizer Sue-Jean Chun.
All of the organizers agreed that they are looking to building off of last year's inaugural event that saw 400,000 visitors and an economic impact of $33.8 million. Newly appointed CEO of Visit Baltimore Al Hutchinson cited some statistics at the press conference that of all the people who were downtown during the festival last year, 88 percent came specifically because of Light City and 29 percent of people said it was their first time in Baltimore.
"Every community in this country looks for a signature event that they can call their own," Hutchinson said. "Let's own this."