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On June 8th, 2015h, BOPA hosted a Light City Baltimore Ideas Session at the Top of the World Gallery. Click through for full notes from the topics addressed at this Ideas Session and Q&A.

Location: Top of the World Gallery

Date: June 8, 2015

Organized by the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts (BOPA)

Presentation and Moderation-

Kathy Hornig, Festivals Director, BOPA

Jamie McDonald, Co-Chair, Light City Baltimore Steering Committee

Jamie McDonald opened the info session with a presentation about Light City Baltimore, its vision, potential areas of impact, and long-term goals. Baltimore has a rich history of innovation tied to light: In 1816, Baltimore was the first American city to illuminate its streets with gas lanterns, thus transforming the city with light and revolutionizing the urban landscape forever. It’s with this spirit of innovation and transformation that 200 years later, Light City will paint Baltimore with light and bring together the brightest thinkers.

Throughout the course of the discussion, several comments were made that are not included as questions below. We received excellent feedback from different members of the community, mostly relating to topics of how cultural institutions outside of the festival’s harbor centric footprint can become involved.

Question 1- How can communities not in the Inner Harbor take part in Light City?

There are many brick and mortar institutions who have expressed interest, both in submitting a proposal through the Call for Entry, as well as hosting an event or program at their home institution. One of the goals of Light City is to support the wider community- one way we can try to achieve this is to use the promotional platform of Light City to encourage traffic to different institutions across the city.  There are ways to make metaphorical tie-ins to light, thus making opportunities to participate indirectly.

During the development of the Call for Entry, we realized that BOPA can construct ways for both collaborators and institutions to match up for Light City. One way we endeavor to support this is through a cross-promotional plan that matches cultural institutions with proposals not selected by the jury. We realize we can’t do it all, especially in year one. With this in mind, we have built into the application process the option for artists submitting proposals to share their projects with cultural institutions. We have a motto that “more is more”. This would follow the “in the neighborhood” model BOPA has been using for Artscape for the past several years- a way, we think, to make the most robust experiences happen for communities in Baltimore, with the finite budget Light City is able to raise. The dates of Light City have been intentionally selected- during the winter months, there are fewer programs and events being produced throughout the city. This happens across the sector, affecting cultural institutions as well as public events. We hope that Light City is able to bridge that gap by working with cultural institutions and attractions in Baltimore to expand programming and audience engagement.

Some other ideas have surfaced throughout these discussions, such as how to live stream from one location to another. Although BOPA is not able to offer any consulting of how a proposal should aesthetically come together, BOPA staff is happy to speak about the nuts and bolts process of how to put together and submit a proposal for Light City.

Comment: Baltimore was once the center of innovation. It will be interesting to see how Light City is able to reflect this reputation.

Question 2- What do you want communities affected by the Uprising to get out of this?

From a neighborhood standpoint, we don’t want to be telling anyone what they should be doing, or what we want them to do. We want to develop a strategy to create meaningful impact in community, so we’re hoping communities will self-identify their own wants and needs as they relate to Light City. We are certainly happy to help facilitate the proposal process as much as we are able, and strongly encourage artists, musicians and performers to consider their own communities here in Baltimore when submitting a proposal- as such, we have asked how projects work with our goals for Light City in their applications.

We know that Light City cannot solve all of Baltimore’s problems, especially in its first year. But we are committed to working with collaborators who know, understand and can speak to different community needs, and from this model best practice for engagement across Baltimore.

Comment: Events organized by committee frequently don’t work. Light City has a nine-month timeline, and there hasn’t been a clear vision of aesthetic anchors for the art component communicated. Baltimore is a very different city than Sydney [where Vivid Sydney occurs annually].

In all the planning for Light City, BOPA does strive to have an open and transparent process. This is the first time BOPA has worked with a Committee, and with any new way of working there are some inherent challenges. However, our Steering Committee and subcommittees for Light City support the festival in ways that would otherwise be an overwhelming challenge for any arts organization to produce. BOPA’s dedicated staff are hard at work with the heavy lifting of making Light City run, and we rely on the Steering Committee to support us in this endeavor.

In speaking to the aesthetic anchors of the festival, we are currently underway in the process for the Call for Entry, which will form these anchors. In continuing our efforts for transparency, we have built a jury structure to keep the selection process as fair as possible. To that end, we don’t feel it is appropriate to interfere with the jury’s job of selection, and entrust these members of the jury with their wealth of experience to select anchors best suited for the festival.

Our timeline for this process is published in the Call for Entry. The jury will deliberate after the August 31st deadline for submitting, and BOPA will notify the selected artists on October 30th.

In closing, BOPA will be crafting a one-sheet for the cultural institutions in attendance to help give more information about Light City, with ideas of how to maximize the festival even for those not situated within the harbor. We encourage anyone interested in participating to get in touch with any questions about submitting a proposal.

Thank you to Annie Applegarth and Amy Carrick for their help organizing this event. We also would like to thank Joan, Lamar, and Markell- the amazing Top of the World staff who assisted us during the event.

Disclaimer: These are notes collected from participants and presenters, and are treated with due diligence to the best of our abilities. These should not be considered exact transcripts of conversations held at this event.

For more information about Light City Baltimore, please visit

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