What Not To Miss At Light City 2017
Our top picks of what to see, hear, and do at the art and innovation festival that begins March 31.
By Gabriella Souza. Posted on March 20, 2017, 3:00 pm
Apparatus Florius Leeds 2016 by Tom Dekyvere -Photography by Mark Pickthall
There’s a kind of ease that comes with the second year of a festival. Last year, everyone was abuzz, wondering what this new Light City was all about.
But now, in year two, we know a little bit about what to expect: Shimmering neon lights reflecting in the harbor, for instance, and thousands of visitors clustering with their cell phones out, looking for the perfect shot or selfie. Performers wowing a crowd that includes everyone from kids on their parents’ shoulders to the hippest of hipsters and cool kids. An innovation conference that drew speakers from across the country to discuss social change. And, perhaps most importantly, a community coming together to realize what unites us as a city.
Light City’s organizers have promised a bigger, brighter, and bolder festival this year. And to help you determine what you should experience, we’ve narrowed down a few installations, performances, and conferences that have us excited for Light City’s return.
Yes, crowd favorites Peacock and The Pool [Reflect] are returning to Light City this year, and we’ve already given you the run down on GSP Studios’ Communication Gaps installation. But here are a few others on the BGE Light Walk around the Inner Harbor that promise to wow and also bring a moment of reflection.
Light Street and Key Highway by Rash Field. This immersive installation by local artists Marian Ochoa, Kirsten Walsh, and Jann Rosen-Queralt underscores the profound influence of water. Light and water share emotional and physical properties: both provide life or hope, and instill fear or trust. Argo addresses events formed by and affecting water, and how Baltimore’s water systems are precariously changing.
Near the intersection of Light Street and Key Highway. Impulse—the work of a group of Canadian artists—calls on you to be a kid again and play on seesaws, 15 of them, in fact, which are fitted with LED lights and speakers. As you float through the air, you’ll be accompanied by a chorus of beautiful sounds.
Near Pratt and Light streets. Imagine walking on a path into the water to reach an egg-shaped sculpture, feeling as if you’re vanishing into a metaphysical mist. That’s what this installation from a group of Belgian artists promises and we’re intrigued.
Pier 5. The recent expansion of the Panama Canal promises an increased connection to three very different places: Shanghai, Panama, and Baltimore. Baltimore artist and filmmaker Eric Dyer—his works has been displayed at places like the Smithsonian and the London International Animation Festival—explores this concept in his piece, which takes the form of two, 7-foot circular sculptures that are brought to animated life when spun by the public, accompanied by a synchronous strobe light.
Pier 4. Baltimore artist and Maryland Institute College of Art alum Edgar Reyes joined together with Latino youth from Baltimore and Langley Park to create Suenos (“dreams” in Spanish), which highlights their complex racial make up and reflects and honors their loved ones who have died migrating to the United States. This work is personal for Reyes, who has experience as an undocumented youth in the U.S.
The Divided Line
Light Street. If you’re new to this whole virtual reality thing, check out this installation, where visitors can engage in a VR experience containing two chambers that will change over the course of the festival. Feel free to come back again and again to check out this work by The RE/PUBLIC, a Baltimore-based collaborative agency.
Light City is extending into more neighborhoods during its second year, with light installations, events, and performances featured in Hamilton-Lauraville, Waverly, Sandtown-Winchester, Station North, Coldstream Homestead Montebello, Hampden, Little Italy, and Greater Mondawmin. Check out an ode to legendary dance club O’Dell’s by Sondheim winners Wickerham & Lomax in Station North. And in Hamilton-Lauraville, a fluorescent, UV-sensitive mural by artist Maura Dwyer, which will transform at sunset with dancing UV lights that create the illusion of movement. Plus, the community will celebrate the unveiling of the mural with a party featuring a DJ and performances, favorite neighborhood foods, and handmade crafts.
Light Up the Night stage, Friday, April 7, 10:30 p.m.-12 a.m. Pretty much everyone knows the lyrics to the refrain of “Just a Friend” by heart. So we can only imagine what that will sound like ringing off the downtown skyscrapers under the stars.
Dirty Dozen Brass Band
Light Up the Night stage, Friday, March 31, 9:30-11 p.m. There’s nothing like that New Orleans jazz sound, from the bright brass to the bold rhythms, and the Dirty Dozen are the perfect ambassadors.
Light Up the Night stage, Friday, April 7, 6:30-7:15 p.m. Most teenage boys don’t shoot a music video on their lunch break, but FAAME (which stands for Focus And Achieving My Empire) Emanuel defies average. This 16-year-old Baltimore native and student at the Baltimore School for the Arts is a creative powerhouse, moving with ease from composing hip-hop and song lyrics to studying the craft of acting.
George Spicka and Baltimore Jazz Works
Light Up the Night stage, Saturday, April 1, 5:15-6 p.m. This trio’s mission is a worthy one—to perform the work of Baltimore jazz composers. The theme of their 2017 Light City concert is “Baltimore Rising,” a testimony to Baltimore’s spirit, which will feature the video imagery of Baltimore artist Tina Paquet.
Light Up the Night stage, Saturday, April 8, 9:30-11 p.m. This Los Angeles-based band is a festival favorite for a reason. They consistently bring the funky grooves that will have you bopping, and now you can see them for free.
Bmore Than Dance: Danceoff Showcase
Light Up the Night stage, Tuesday, April 4, 8:30-9:30 p.m.; Friday, April 7, 8:30-9:15 p.m. What started as an annual dance event has evolved into a network of over 300 dancers, producers, DJs, and MCs. Bmore Than Dance provides outlets and showcases to inspire and evolve the way youth looks at the art of dance, starting with a dance style that originated in Baltimore. Their high-energy moves are guaranteed to wow you.
Light Up the Night stage, Saturday, April 8, 8-9 p.m. These fire dancers were a huge hit last year, and this time, they’re back with a Egyptian tribal-themed performances loaded with battle scenes and other excitements.
Sankofa Dance Theater
Light Up the Night stage, Friday, March 31, 7:45-8:15 p.m. For 25 years, this company has focused on presenting world-class, authentic African art. They’ll be presenting a traditional West African story to life with a mix of classic and illuminated costumes, moves and music.
The Circus of Wonders
Sondheim Fountain, Inner Harbor We’ve all dreamed of running off to join the circus, and this group brings the circus ring right to your feet. Comprised of internationally renowned artists, the Circus of Wonders will present continuous night-time shows that include juggling, magic, fire spinning, and comedy and feature Baltimore performers including magician David London and juggler Salih Mahammed.
The Lantern Sisters Featuring Katherine Fahey & Valeska Populoh: Traveling Shadow Puppet Crankie Show
Crankies are one of the more unique, and treasured, of Baltimore’s art forms. Keep an eye out for The Lantern Sisters’s rolling cart hung with lanterns, where they perform these shadow puppet shows. Crankies work like this—an illustrated scroll is mounted in a box, and as the operator of the crankie cranks, the images move across the front. The scroll is illuminated by light from behind it so you can see silhouettes through the scroll.
Monday, April 3-Saturday, April 8, IMET Columbus Center, 701 E. Pratt St. You might have noticed a change in the conferences’ name this year (they were called Light City U in the first iteration), but there are other updates as well. For one, organizers were deliberate in featuring speakers that represented three stages of renown—internationally or internationally prominent, well known in Baltimore, and local Baltimoreans who have done great things but are yet to be as well recognized.
This shines through, for example, in the Social Lab, where you can hear New York Times best-selling author and blogger Luvvie Ajayi (who was a huge hit at last year’s Baltimore Book Festival), local author and professor D. Watkins, and Destiny Watford, a Curtis Bay resident who won the 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize after mounting a four-year campaign, while a teenager, that halted the construction of the nation’s largest trash-burning incinerator less than a mile from her high school.
Or in the Food Lab, where you can hear one of the world’s famous chefs Marcus Samuelsson, as well as our own James Beard-winning Spike Gjerde, and Rev. Dr. Heber M. Brown III, the senior pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church who launched the Black Church Food Security Network, which links black church and black farmers together to create a community food system. And as an added bonus, for the next week, you can attend the conference for a discounted rate of $99 each.
Light City’s organizers have come up with something special to celebrate the festival each night. On the first night, check out the opening parade, organized by the Creative Alliance, featuring lighted floats and costumed performers. Then there’s a showcase of college marching bands (Thursday, April 6, 8-9 p.m.), a special water performance featuring lighted boats at the marina (Tuesday, April 4, 8-9 p.m.), and fireworks on the final night.
And we’d be remiss if we didn’t tell you about the parade to celebrate April Fool’s Day featuring the world’s largest kazoo band April Fool’s Hats Brigade. Who wouldn’t want to take part in something like that?
Gabriella Souza is the arts and culture editor for Baltimore magazine, where she covers arts, entertainment, music, and culture.