In Hampden, children frolicked in front of the three projectors, creating shadows that danced with animated smiley faces, flowerpots and crawling crabs on a building's white walls. In Little Italy, passers-by looked up at the St. Leo the Great Roman Catholic Church, seeing faces of the community, past and present, illuminated on the brick facade.
The vibrant scenes were part of Light City Baltimore's Neighborhood Lights events, an artist-in-residency program that's an extension of the "light, music and innovation" festival taking place downtown.
The festival, which features a 1.5-mile Light Art Walk along the Inner Harbor and more than 50 attractions, also filters into five city neighborhoods. Hampden and Little Italy's events will continue through Sunday, while Greater Mondawmin, Coldstream-Homestead-Montebello and Station North will have light displays and events later this week.
"It's weird. I love it," Delshan Baker said on the opening night of the "#HampdenLights" display, which is set up at the former site of the consignment shop David's on the Avenue.
The event also attracted local politicians, including Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake — who stopped by Tuesday night — and Democratic mayoral candidate Elizabeth Embry.
Baker, a Charles Village resident, said Neighborhood Lights was a good reason to get out and mingle with fellow residents.
"The city has so much to offer in terms of art and culture and people hanging out for no other reason but to be hanging out and feeling good in a space together," Baker said. "You don't hear that story a lot, but it happens a lot in the city, so every time it happens, we want to be there."
Diana Reichenbach, the Hampden artist who created the projections and the featured 16-foot geodesic dome, said she wanted to create a place where "everyone could come together and create artwork and create energy of Light City," she said. Attendees shifted in and out of the dome, some taking quick glances around, while others lay on the floor to better watch the sparkling white and blue lights glide over the planetarium-like surface.
Reichenbach, an animation professor at Maryland Institute College of Art, held workshops in early March, allowing residents to create flipbook and stop-motion animations that are now projected on the walls in her installation. Visitors can manipulate the flipbook animations with an iPad.
The projections and purple and blue hues can be seen from the street.
"I wanted to kind of light up the Avenue," Reichenbach said. "This is the light and soul of the neighborhood."
Children were some of the most enthusiastic attendees.
Cortney Maly, who just moved to Hampden from Des Moines, Iowa, came with her 4-year-old nephew, Kian Maly, on Tuesday night. Kian was dressed as a "cheetah boy" with spotted ears and a tail, and red goggles he brought from home.
When asked how he liked the event, Kian had a one-word response — "Good" — before placing the goggles back on his face and running back to the projections.
The Neighborhood Lights event in Little Italy has a more nostalgic feel. When the sun sets, St. Leo's is illuminated with a colorful slideshow of more than 200 rotating images of neighborhood residents, dating to the early 1900s. The work, called "il Tartufo Lucente," is by Baltimorean Joe Reinsel.
"It was really just talking to neighbors and the people in the neighborhood and gathering photos from old and new times ... kind of learning about who they are and kind of finding a place where we can display and create some small sense of community," Reinsel said.
Reinsel hosted two workshops with Little Italy residents to gather photos. There, the community came to a consensus that the church is the neighborhood's central point. That's when Reinsel created the video map of the piece, later asking permission from residents who live directly across from the building to borrow their upstairs window for the projector.
On Monday and Tuesday night, some passers-by stopped in their tracks to take pictures and recognized loved ones.
"Look, there's Uncle Frank! Do you see Uncle Frank?" Gia Fracassetti asked her son, Luca.
Fracassetti, the co-owner of Little Italy restaurant Cafe Gia and the community's liaison who helped collect the pictures for the project, said Monday was her first time seeing the projection on the church.
"Some of my neighbors from when I was a child were here," she said. She saw the enthusiasm in residents who participated, some of whom hung colorful lanterns in front of their homes.
If you go
Hampden: "#HampdenLights" will be on display from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. through Sunday. 914 W. 36th St.
Little Italy: "il Tartufo Lucente" will be on display from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. through Sunday. St. Leo the Great Roman Catholic Church, 227 S. Exeter St.
Coldstream-Homestead-Montebello: The "Back in Our Minds" multimedia event runs 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday. Clifton Park Golf Course, 2701 Saint Lo Drive.
Station North: The "Dark City" installation by LabBodies is on view from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m Friday, and performance runs 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday. Penn Station Plaza, 1500 N. Charles St.; "Uncool" by Wickerham & Lomax is on view 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday. Terrault Contemporary, 1515 Guilford Ave.
Greater Mondawmin: "Open Beats" will run 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday. Mondawmin Mall, 2401 Liberty Heights Ave.