The second Light City festival, which will start illuminating the Inner Harbor and other points throughout the city Friday, will be offering plenty of well-lit culture, performance and entertainment through its nine-day run. Adopting a motto of "Bigger, Brighter, Bolder," organizers are promising a celebration even grander that last year's inaugural fete, which attracted some 400,000 visitors.
"I think everything people see is going to be different," says Bill Gilmore, executive director of the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts, which is producing the festival again this year. "Even if they came every night last year, it's going to feel and look very different."
Like any festival, the best way to experience Light City may be to simply show up (its Inner Harbor location will be open 7 p.m.-11 p.m. weekdays, 7 p.m.-midnight Fridays and Saturdays) and see what happens. But for those of you who may have a limited amount of time, or are especially big into advance planning, here are 12 things that shouldn't be missed during your nighttime visit.
To help make each of the festival's nine nights distinctive, the folks responsible for Light City are giving each one a unique kickoff celebration. The events, scheduled for 8 p.m. daily in front of the Maryland Science Center, begin tonight with an opening night parade organized by the inventive minds at Highlandtown's Creative Alliance, featuring illuminated floats, marching units and costumed performers. Other nights will feature an April Fools' Day Parade of Fools, with Baltimore's largest kazoo band and something called the April Fools Hats Brigade (Saturday); a College Night Out, with bands and students from area colleges and universities (Thursday); and a Kinetic Procession & Bike Glow Rally, with scads of lit-up bicyclists and pedal-powered vehicles (April 7).
Twenty-three art installations will be installed along the 1.5-mile BGE Light Art Walk, running north and east from the Maryland Science Center to Harbor East. And if you start in front of the science center, the first installation you'll encounter sounds like one of the most impressive. "ARGO," the creation of Baltimore artists Jann Rosen-Queralt, Marian Ochoa and Kirsten Walsh, features a 70-foot-tall sculpture of a human figure, surrounded by an "immersive environment" projecting animation onto the water. Workshops and interactive performances will focus on the characteristics of light, which explains why the Science Center is involved.
Located along the Light Art Walk off Pratt Street, just east of Light Street, this giant walk-in egg invites visitors inside with plays of light combined with visual and acoustic animations. The work of Belgian artists EVO Collective, "OVO" invites the spectator to walk across the water and step inside, "as if to vanish into a metaphysical mist."
Set near the Four Seasons Hotel in Harbor East, French artist Stephane Masson's contribution is a car that fills progressively with water, with giant (virtual) goldfish swimming inside. It's cheaper than a visit to the nearby National Aquarium, and certainly the closest any of us would want to get to a water-filled car.
Most of the art installations are new, but festival organizers couldn't resist bringing back two crowd favorites from 2016: "Peacock" by Baltimore's Tim Scofield, Kyle Miller, Steve Dalenkoff and Will Cocks; and "The Pool [Reflect]" by New York artist Jen Lewin. The 40-by-20-foot peacock will be over near Harbor East this year. "The Pool" is a slight adaptation of Lewin's lily pad-like installation from last year; it will be located on the Light Art Walk off Light Street.
Local food and beverage offerings
Surely, you'll need some sustenance as you wind your way through Light City, and happily, organizers have got you covered. About 20 local vendors — including Dooby's, The Local Fry, Ekiben, BricknFire Pizza Co. and Zeke's Coffee — will be offering food, grouped loosely by what they'll be serving (seafood, Asian food, etc.) at eight food stations along the Light Art Walk. Beverage bars at each station will feature libations from Heavy Seas Beer, The Brewer's Art and Union Craft Brewing, plus wine and the official Light City cocktail, "The Golden Hour." Created by Eric Fooy of B&O American Brasserie, the drink features 1.5 ounces of Sagamore Spirit Rye, 1/2 ounce of maraschino liquor, 2 ounces of orange juice and 1/2 ounce of lemon juice, with a dash of bitters and a cherry garnish. Sounds seriously delish.
In addition to the live acts scheduled to perform at the Inner Harbor Ampitheater, dance troupes, interactive shows and more will spontaneously pop up along the Light Art Walk throughout the festival. Keep your eyes peeled for everything from a LED hula hoop performance to a shadow puppet show.
Lit City Dance Party
Venturing away from the Inner Harbor, the reach of Light City 2017 extends throughout much of Baltimore. If you're lucky enough to be checking out the festival on Thursday, check out this under-bridge dance party, set for 8 p.m.-11 p.m. along lower St. Paul Street, beneath the Orleans Street Viaduct. Illuminated by colored lights strung along the underside of the viaduct, the $40-a-ticket party will feature a DJ, dancing, drinks and food from area restaurants, including The Elephant, Phillips Seafood, Cask & Grain and Cava Mezze. Information: godowntownbaltimore.com.
Eight neighborhoods, scattered throughout the city, have been invited to participate directly in Light City through this satellite program. Specific artists have been working with residents of each neighborhood for months, and the brightly lit results, often accompanied by a community fair or other celebration, will be on display throughout the festival's run. The art installations include an illuminated elephant in the center of Lake Montebello, near the Hillen Street entrance (Coldstream Homestead Montebello); an "illuminated series of plexiglass raindrop sculptures," creating a stage for performances, in Hanlon Park (Greater Mondawmin); a mural at 4500 Harford Road that bursts into action when the sun goes down (Hamilton-Lauraville); a collection of illuminated self-portraits at 36th Street's Roosevelt Park and the Ideal Art Space (Hampden); a light canopy and "mobile sculptural fountain" made from recycled materials along High Street (Little Italy); a one-night celebration featuring visual and sound projections celebrating the community's history, culture and legacy, set for 7 p.m.-11 p.m. April 7 at Pauline Fauntleroy Park and Lillian Jones Recreation Center, North Stricker and Laurens streets (Sandtown-Winchester); an oral history of the former O'Dell's nightclub, through testimonies, digital projections and sculpture, 1723 N. Charles St. (Station North); and an LED installation inside a 20-foot shipping container at 32nd and Brentwood streets (Waverly).
Take a drive anywhere in the city, and chances are you'll find a building or two lit up in the festival's official colors, including shades of green, blue, red and gray. Police and fire department locations throughout Baltimore will be illuminated, as well as assorted private buildings, including Sinai Hospital, Miller's Court in Remington and Locust Point's Silo Point condominiums.
Even beyond the festival's Inner Harbor footprint and the Neighborhood Lights installations, other areas of the city have announced their own Light City plans. They include Canton, where a "bMore Bridges of Peace" sculpture will be on view at Dypski Park, 1213 S. Ellwood Ave.; and Loyola University Maryland, where student artwork will be displayed and much of the school's Evergreen campus, 4501 N. Charles St., will be illuminated in green and purple.
The festival closes with a literal bang at midnight April 8, with a fireworks display that organizers promise will "dance across the Inner Harbor skyline and rooftops." They won't be quite as grand as the fireworks that Baltimore sends in the air to celebrate the New Year and the Fourth of July, we're told, but they'll still be plenty glorious.
If you go
Baltimore's second Light City festival runs March 31-April 8 at the Inner Harbor, centering on the BGE Light Art Walk, which extends from the Maryland Science Center, Light Street and Key Highway, and runs north and east to Harbor East. Hours are 7 p.m.-11 p.m. weekdays, 7 p.m.-midnight Fridays and Saturdays. Admission is free.
In addition, satellite Neighborhood Lights art installations and celebrations are taking place in eight city neighborhoods: Coldstream Homestead Montebello, Greater Mondawmin, Hamilton Lauraville, Hampden, Little Italy, Sandtown-Winchester, Station North and Waverly.
During the day, Labs@LightCity, a series of conferences focusing on innovation and featuring local and national leaders in various fields, will run from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. April 3-8 at the IMET Columbia Center, 700 E. Pratt St. Individual labs will focus on the areas of health (April 3), the environment (April 4), education (April 5), society (April 6), Design (April 7) and food (April 8). Tickets are $149 for the first lab, $99 for each additional.