Not knowing much about it, I went to the Baltimore Light City Festival last weekend and initially thought it would be a display of various light installations in a small area of Inner Harbor. I guess I didn’t think much of the word “festival” because I hadn’t realized the light installations were just a small part of what seemed like nighttime Spring Fair on steroids.
The festival was a large-scale event that filled Inner Harbor’s brick-lined promenade with various stands and exhibitions. The event was launched in 2016 in a joint effort from the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts (BOPA) and different local partners. It prides itself in being fully accessible, free and open to all.
I had a chance to look at and experience some of the beautiful installations along the BGE Light Art Walk. I suggest going after sundown, as a lot of the artworks are marked by bright LED lights, many of which were interactive and equally enjoyable for both children and adults.
There was an especially long line for MAPP, or Mapping at Private Properties, a mobile point-and-shoot video mapping system developed by Netherland artists Alex Prooper and Simone van Dam. An accompanying sign explained that MAPP uses a video projector, a camera and a personally designed laptop running custom software to make a scan of its current surroundings. Users were able to become a part of the artwork by stepping before a projected light that scanned participants into a colorful projection.
Another particularly interesting instillation involved Radiant Flux, a sculpture commissioned by BOPA and made by a local artist, Kevin Blackistone. According to the station’s explanation, the interactive sculpture “consists of a tessellated disc of over 100 independent moving triangular mirrors exploring the many facets of light and surface. The movement of the mirrors is choreographed by that of the participants through sensors connected to the work.”
On the flipside, I noticed that the stands were also overwhelmingly filled with books. I later found out that The Baltimore Book Festival was featured as a part of the overall festival. In a world now dominated by technology, the collaboration attempted to revive the book scene by promoting the works of award-winning and celebrity authors, some nationally known and some local, through poetry readings, panel discussions, workshops and more.
Representing Baltimore’s diverse food scene, the festival’s food and drinks are all provided by local vendors. The famous chicken on stick — or chicken on a stick (as the “a” seems to make the biggest difference in the world for students) — made its appearance, and I got to enjoy it two seasons ahead of time. Among a wide variety of choices were fresh Italian pizzas, smoked meat and even a bar for drinks.
On stage was a talented local band, “Outcalls”, a vocal pop duo. According to their website, the two members, Olsen-Ecker and Melissa Wimbish are known as the “electronic opera queens” of Baltimore. They create non-normative pop songs that “offer a fresh, feminist perspective” and hope to create a “sustainable environment for women in the music industry.” They have previously toured all over the country and in Canada.
Bringing together artists and vendors from both Baltimore and the wider community, the Baltimore Light City Festival and Book Festival are festivals you don’t want to miss. Luckily, the event runs until Sunday, Nov. 10.