Baltimore’s third annual Light City festival will feature an entertainment lineup that includes one of the founding fathers of rap, plus pay-what-you-want admission to its innovation conferences, the chance for neighborhoods to win cash prizes for lighting themselves up, and a wandering peacock.
Grandmaster Flash — a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with his group, the Furious Five — headlines this year’s Light City musical lineup, it was announced Tuesday during a news conference at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American Culture & History. Other performers include blues rockers G. Love and Special Sauce and pop-rocker Kimbra.
This year’s festival of illuminated art is set for April 14-21 at the Inner Harbor, with satellite Neighborhood Lights celebrations in 14 city communities organized for the preceding weekend, April 6-8.
Mayor Catherine E. Pugh, alluding to the USA Today article that ranked Baltimore as the country’s most dangerous city based on per-capita homicide rates, took to the stage at the Lewis Museum and pointed to Light City as an opportunity to change that perception.
Calling the celebration a chance to “show off Baltimore in its best light,” Pugh insisted that the city has turned a corner, with homicides and other violent crimes down in 2018.
“Tell that story,” she said.
Festival concerts are scheduled nightly from April 14-21 at two locations: the Inner Harbor Amphitheater, Pratt and Light streets, and the new Club Light City, in Kaufman Pavilion by Rash Field.
“It’s a really nice mix,” festival director Kathy Hornig said of this year’s music lineup, noting the expanding roster of big-name talent. “We’re looking to elevate it every year.” (Previous years’ headliners include Biz Markie, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Dan Deacon.)
Also new at Light City this year: Labs@LightCity, the celebration’s series of social innovation conferences at which experts are brought in to discuss and brainstorm on various issues, will be open to all. Although tickets still will be required, they can be obtained for free, or with attendees paying whatever they want. In previous years, ticket prices for the Labs@LightCity have ranged from $99 to $250, although some tickets had been distributed for free or at reduced prices.
“We really want everyone who wants to be a part of the conversation to be at the labs,” Hornig said. “We felt we would just keep it simple, and ask folks to pay what they can.”
The seven labs planned for 8 a.m.-5 p.m. April 18-21 will focus on education, social issues, the environment, health, art, the maker movement, and food. The labs will take place during the day at the IMET Columbus Center, 700 E. Pratt St.
In addition, YouthLabs@LightCity, designed for teenage city public school students, are set for April 19-20 at the Lewis Museum.
As part of Brilliant Baltimore, in which at least 30 buildings throughout the city will be illuminated during the festival, communities throughout the city are being urged to create their own light display. The public will be able to vote on who did the best job, with the winner receiving $2,018 in prize money; nine honorable mentions will receive $1,000 each.
As in previous years, the festival’s nightly centerpiece will be the illuminated art installations set up along the Inner Harbor, from the Maryland Science Center to Harbor East. Twenty-one light installations will be set up, all by artists new to Light City. Eleven of the installations will be the work of artists from outside Baltimore, including Belgium, China, Canada, France and the Netherlands.
One art installation from previous years will be returning, however, although it will be filling a different, and more mobile, role. Charlie, the 40-foot-wide illuminated mechanical peacock whose unfolding wings have delighted audiences at the first two Light City celebrations, will be traveling throughout Baltimore during the festival, showing up in a different unannounced location each night. Clues to his whereabouts will be broadcast on WJZ (Channel 13), and through Light City’s social media channels.
The Light City festival runs 7 p.m.-11 p.m. (7 p.m.-midnight Fridays and Saturdays) April 14-21 along Pratt and Light streets. Neighborhood Lights, April 6-8, will extend the celebration into 14 communities (up from last year’s eight): Belair-Edison, Bromo Tower Arts and Entertainment District, Darley Park, Federal Hill, Baybrook (Brooklyn and Curtis Bay), Remington, Hamilton-Lauraville, Highlandtown, Hollins- Roundhouse/Southwest Baltimore, Little Italy, Locust Point, Patterson Park, Pigtown and Waverly. Information: lightcity.org.