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Light City

March 21, 2016
  • Fun in Charm City
  • Festivals
  • Baltimore Events
A Festival of Lights and Ideas

7-11pm March 28 - March 31, 7pm-12am April 1-2, 7-11pm April 3

Baltimore is buzzing with excitement as we approach the beginning of the first ever citywide festival of light, music, and innovation: Light City!  The party kicks off at 7:00pm on Monday March 28 in the Inner Harbor.  And normally I’d simply say “be there, or be square” and count on you to trust me – but I figured since this is an unprecedented event, I’d give ya a little background.  So here we go, Light City 101.


  • In 1816 Baltimore was the first American city to install gas lanterns in the streets of downtown, thus completely transforming the cityscape after dark.  Baltimore’s innovation has come full circle and once again the streets will be filled with light and groundbreaking creativity during the weeklong festival that is Light City.  Happy 200th anniversary of lit city streets, everyone!  Light City is the first large-scale light festival to be held in the United States, but similar events have been hosted in Sydney and London.  The art, music, and ideas that make up Light City will come primarily from local creatives, but there will also be visiting artists from across the nation and the globe.
  • So what can you expect?  Well, the festival focuses on innovation, collaboration, sustainability, and transformation with a special emphasis on getting YOU involved!  You’ll be able to bask in the glow of huge illuminated artworks, play with interactive displays, and enjoy (maybe even participate in) live performances. 

Volunteer Opportunity

  • If you’re interested in being part of Light City, we’ve got a volunteer opportunity for you!  Pilobolus, a dance company from Connecticut, is looking for participants to be part of their show “UP.” Volunteers will operate umbrellas with LED lights under the direction of the Pilobolus team.  The performance will be filmed and projected on a screen in real time and is gonna be so awesome!  
    • Where: McKeldin Square (corner of Pratt and Light)
    • When:
      • Thursday, March 31, 8:30pm and 10:30pm
      • Friday, April 1, 9:00pm and 11:30pm
      • Saturday, April 2, 8:30pm and 11:30pm
    • Volunteer opportunities are on a first come, first served basis – so get there at least 15 minutes before performance time! 


  • Light City started as the idea of Justin Allen and Brooke Hall of What Works Studio to show “Baltimore as a hub for art and innovation and provide a global stage for the local talent to shine.”(Souza "Light City Q&ABaltimore Magazine, 2016  )
  • Way back when in 2010 Justin and Brooke began their research for Light City – they studied the ways festivals and large-scale events around the world can have a transformative effect on host communities.  Fast-forward to 2013 and the dynamic duo started to develop the Light City marketing campaign and promotional materials.  Later that year they pitched their idea to what are now Light City’s biggest sponsors – BGE and Visit Baltimore.  In 2014 Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts (aka BOPA) signed on to take charge of festival production and implementation.  And now, it’s 2016 and it’s finally party time! 


  • The festivities will kick off on Monday night (the 28th) at 7pm with the Light City Lantern Parade, organized by Creative Alliance.  The mobile light show will start at the Maryland Science Center and proceed around the Harbor.   
  • Every night from 7:00-11:00pm (12:00am on Friday and Saturday!) the BGE Light Art Walk will be free and open to the public.  The 1.5 miles path around the Inner Harbor will be filled with illuminated artwork, theatrical performances, and live music.  Audiences can look forward to seeing Baltimore-based groups like Fluid Movement, Single Carrot Theatre, and 901 Arts (which was founded by a MICA student, Sarah Tooley, btw) as well as visiting artists like Atelier Mateo M from Berlin.
  • There will be light twinkling as far as the eye can see; here are just some of the major installations you’ll have the chance to see (all of the following artists are from Baltimore):
    • Diamonds Light Baltimore
      Artist & Architect team: Mina Cheon  (who got her M.F.A. in imaging and digital arts from UMBC, cool huh?) and Gabriel Kroiz(Chair of Undergraduate Design at the one and only Morgan State University!  Woo, go bears!)
    • Dear Baltimore (a mobile display that’ll travel around the Harbor on bikes!)
      Artist: Thick Air Studios
    • LaserLotus (this one will feature an interactive touchpad so passersby will be in control of color changes)
      Artists: Nisha Ramnath (a MICA alumna!) & Brian Gonzalez
    • Lightwave: Baltimore’s Beacon
      Artist: Design Collective, Inc.
  • 1,001 Lux - a large-scale, three channel video and audio project
    Artist: Symmes Gardner (an affiliate associate professor at UMBC.) 

All this festival goin’ is gonna make you hungry, I’m sure!  Well have no fear, there will be food options throughout the Inner Harbor Promenade and each coordinates with a nearby exhibit.  Some of the eateries include: 

  • Ekiben (which was founded by UMBC alumni, fun fact!) will have steamed pork buns and rice bowls.
  • Parts & Labor will serve up some locally sourced farm-to-table eats.
  • The Nickel Taphouse will provide sliders and fries at the Blue Hour Bar on Pier 1.  The bar will also feature the signature Light City cocktail, the “Glass Slipper,” crafted by legendary B&O American Brasserie bartender Eric Fooy, winner of a local mixology competition.  If you’re 21+ and try one of these bad boys, let me know! 

Neighborhood Lights

The focal point of the festival will be the Inner Harbor and the surrounding downtown area, but five other neighborhoods around Baltimore will also contribute to the overall glow:

  • Coldstream Homestead Montebello (CHM) – located in the northeastern section of the city, CHM will feature a special multimedia event called Back In Our Minds which incorporates live music, large-scale animations, and poetry.
    • Artists: Isaac Ewart, Jose Rosero, and Emmanuel Williams 
    • When: Saturday April 2, 2016 7:00pm – 10:00pm
    • Where: Clifton Park, 2701 St Lo Drive Baltimore, MD 21213
    • Nearby Students: Hopkins (2.3 miles), UB (2.3 miles), Loyola  (2.7 miles), MICA (2.8 miles), NDMU (3 miles)
  • Hampden – 36th Street, aka “The Avenue” will be transformed into an interactive light and animation display called #hampdenlight.
    • Artist: Diana Reichenbach 
    • When: March 28 – April 3, 2016 7:00-11:00pm
    • Where: W. 36th Street Baltimore, MD 21211
    • Nearby Students: Hopkins (1.4 miles), Loyola (1.8 miles), NDMU (1.9 miles)
  • Greater Mondawmin – Mondawin Mall will be transformed into an interactive exhibit of projection mapping and audio control. You’ll be able to see music, cool huh?
    • Artist: Llamadon Collective 
    • When: Friday April 1 3:00-8:00pm
    • Where: 2401 Liberty Heights Avenue Baltimore, MD 21215
    • Nearby Students: Coppin State University  (0.7 mile), MICA (2.5 miles), UB (2.8 miles)
  • Little Italy –The façade of St. Leo the Great Church will be illuminated with images that celebrate the history and culture of Baltimore’s Little Italy.
    • Artist: Joe Reinsel 
    • When: March 28 – April 3 7:00-11:00pm
    • Where: 227 South Exeter Street Baltimore, MD 21202
    • Nearby Students: University of Maryland, Baltimore (1.7 miles), University of Baltimore (2.3 miles), MICA (2.8 miles) 
  • Station North – the work of local artist power duos (LabBodies and Wickerman & Lomax) seeks to discover what gives Station North light.
    • LabBodies; Wickerman & Lomax 
    • When & Where:
      • “Dark City” by LabBodies
        Penn Station Plaza
        Friday, April 1st
        Installation on view 5-10pm
        Performance 7pm – 10pm
      • “Uncool” by Wickerham & Lomax
        Terrault Contemporary
        1515 Guilford Ave
        Saturday, April 2nd
        Reception 7-10PM
    • Nearby Students: UB (0.1 mile), MICA (0.4 mile), Hopkins (1.3 miles), Loyola (2.8 miles), Notre Dame (3.1 miles)

Light City U - four separate conferences that will bring together the movers and shakers in innovation, technology, and creativity to discuss how do we become a more responsible and equitable society?

  • Social Innovation – March 28 – 29 at The Columbus Center
    • Social justice leaders, philanthropists, educators, and policy matters will gather to speak about some of Baltimore’s, America’s, and the world’s societal issues. Here are just a few of the speakers:
      • Marin Alsop, Music Director, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
      • Sammy Hoi, President, MICA
      • Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, President, UMBC
      • Chris Jeffery, Co-founder & CEO OrderUp
      • Wes Moore, Founder & CEO, BridgeEDU, author of The Other Wes Moore
      • Dr. Leana Wen, Commissioner, Baltimore City Health Department 
  • Sustainability Innovation – March 30 – 31 at The Columbus Center
    • Energy, ecology, and economics – aka some of the biggest challenges the global society deals with today – are the main focus of this conference. Just a few of the heavy hitters:
      • James Bond, President & CEO, Living Classrooms Foundation
      • Calvin Butler, CEO, Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE)
      • Nabila Chami, Social Media Strategist, National Aquarium
      • Adam Lindquist, Director, Healthy Harbor Initiative Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore
      • Jen Meyer, CEO, Betamore
      • Michael Stebner, Executive Chef, Sweetgreen
  • Health Innovation- March 30-31 at The Columbus Center
    • Engineers, inventors, and tech gurus will converge to talk about developments and best practices to create a healthier future. Some notable contributors: 
      • Talithia Williams, Associate Mathematics Professor, Harvey Mudd College
      • TJ Tate, Director of Sustainable Seafood, National Aquarium
      • Amita Shukla, Founder & CEO, Vitamita
      • Todd Marks, CEO & Founder, Mindgrub
      • Ray Lewis, Vice President, Power52, Inc. (or maybe you’ve heard of him for his little 17-year, Super Bowl winning stint with the Ravens.  No big deal.)
      • Nick Buettner, Community and Corporate Program Director, Blue Zones, LLC
  • Creative Innovation – April 1- 2 at City Garage
    • Ideas, stories, and inspiration will be swapped during this gathering of entrepreneurs, futurists, and designers. Some of the creativity gurus:
      • Jad Abumrad, Host, Radiolab
      • Jan Baum, Executive Director, 3D Innovation Institute
      • Thomas Dolby, Professor, Johns Hopkins University
      • GAIA, Artist
      • Fred Lazarus, President Emeritus, MICA
      • Reshma Saujani, Founder & CEO, Girls Who Code

Tickets are on the pricey side, but the Maryland Entrepreneurship, Education & Technology Scholarship Program is giving local college students an amazing discount (amazing as in 50% off!) Click here to visit their website for the special promo code. 

Transportation ​

  • The Collegetown Shuttle, of course! Goucher, Hopkins, Loyola, Morgan, NDMU, and Towson students can take the shuttle down to Penn Station and catch the Charm City Circulator from there.
  • Charm City Circulator – get right downtown without worrying about the hassle (and expense) of parking.  Take the Orange Line to Stop #222 (Inner Harbor, E. Pratt Street & S. Calvert Street) or Stop #223 (National Aquarium 501 E. Pratt Street) 

Several campuses, like Loyola for example, will be running special shuttle services for students traveling to Light City.  Be sure to connect with your Office of Student Activities and/or Transportation Services to inquire if there will be special travel arrangements offered.

Promo Video

If a picture’s worth 1,000 words, how much is a video worth? Check out the “We Are Light City” video from BOPA if you’re still uncertain what exactly Light City is all about. 


Last, but certainly not least, the Light City app!  Local tech company, Mindgrub, has designed a Light City app that allows you to map out your schedule, look up artist and performer bios, and more.  It’s available in the App Store for Apple and Android devices.  


Well, there ya have it class, Light City 101.  Think you’re ready for the final exam? No need to panic, all you have to do to pass the class is attend one or two … or several Light City events!  Don’t forget to tag @baltimorecollegetown in all your dazzling Instagram photos, Tweets (@baltcollegetown), or Facebook posts (Baltimore Collegetown Network).   

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