While the timing may seem inopportune—the infamous Baltimore riots occurred nearly one year prior—organizers and residents alike believe that an ambitious event like Light City Baltimore is needed now more than ever to lift community spirits and improve the city’s image. Described as a festival of “light, music, and innovation,” the inaugural Light City Baltimore was launched with high hopes that it could one day rival world-renowned events like Australia’s Vivid Sydney or Austin’s South by Southwest. Light City Baltimore kicked off Monday this week with a lantern parade and includes a BGE Light Art Walk along the waterfront, multiple pop-up concerts and performances, a family-friendly Mini Light City space, and a three-day Light City U conference that explored topics such as social justice and sustainability.
Numerous artists—two-thirds of who are from Baltimore—also put the spotlight on sustainable themes in their artwork. LEDs were used in many installations, from the LED-embedded bamboo lights and lanterns at the Japanese landmark sculpture to the Beacon, a multi-story cube built from hundreds of LED panels. Global warming and sea level rise were addressed as well, most hauntingly through artist Riki K’s Glacier, a large-scale steel and plexiglass installation that tells the story of a glacier’s birth to death through LEDs, projections, and music.
Other noteworthy installations include the Peacock, a 20-foot-tall, 1,200-pound animatronic bird with 40-foot-wide LED plumage that changes colors and patterns on demand. Nearby, the historic Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse is awash in a wave of light and sounds. Light art wasn’t just limited to dry land however; Voyage, designed by UK artists Aether & Hemera, floats 300 “paper boats” with rainbow-colored lights manipulated by festival-goers. Social issues are beautifully addressed in several installations, such as Cheon and Kroiz’s Diamonds, 15 large LED diamond-shaped sculptures that “signify two Baltimores, one prosperous and hopeful and the other in a state of permanent emergency.” At 10PM, the LEDs change color from white to blue in remembrance of last April’s citywide curfew.
The dazzling interactive art installations don’t stop at the waterfront. Many communities have joined in for the festivities through Neighborhood Lights, an immersive public artist-in-residency program that coincides with the inaugural light festival. If you haven’t yet had the chance to visit Light City Baltimore, it’s not too late. The festival continues to come alive every night from 7PM to midnight until Sunday, April 3. Local restaurants, bars, tourist attractions, and stores are also offering special deals and discounts during the event. You can find more information about the musical line up, artists, and schedule on the Light City Baltimore website.
Images © Lucy Wang