Light City Baltimore

Ideas Session- Innovation

Location: Betamore

Date: March 11, 2015

Organizers: Jen Myers, Betamore

Kristi S. Halford, Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore


Presentation and Moderation: Brooke Hall, What Weekly Studios

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.

We are excited to launch Light City Baltimore in 2016, but have our eye on the potential for the long-term impact of the festival, so we are constantly thinking about 2026.  We want to build on Baltimore’s strengths, while thinking big about the future. Light City Baltimore aims to be a collaborative, inclusive event that helps shape the city’s landscape.

Will a comments thread be available on the website?

Yes! As Light City Baltimore continues to develop the festival website, part of the design will include a page for a community forum. Collaboration is a core value of the Festival. The website is being envisioned as both a central location for information and connection for artists and musicians. Have 3000 light bulbs you need to get rid of? Looking for a pro projectionist? This is where you’ll find it! BOPA and the Light City Baltimore organizing committee are committed to having as much community feedback as possible throughout the event planning, both with the ideas sessions we are currently organizing and throughout the festival.

What is the budget/fundraising goal?

Light City Baltimore is a nonprofit festival that sits under the non-profit Baltimore Festival of the Arts, Inc. (BFAI), and is being produced by the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts (BOPA). As a non-profit initiative, we are only able to spend what we raise. To that end, we are trying to raise $4 million in sponsorships from local and national stakeholders for the 2016 festival.

Thinking in other terms of “cost”, are you considering Light City Baltimore’s environmental impact?

Sustainability is a core pillar of the Festival.  Light City seeks to present a series of programming elements that aim towards both environmental as well as economic sustainability. Solar powered light exhibitions, human powered sculptures, renewable resources—these are all part of designing green strategies and thinking about building sustainability as a core value of the festival.

How will Light City Baltimore honor aspects of the city’s history?

We are planning the Festival based on four key pillars:

1- Sustainability

2- Baltimore and its enduring legacy

3- Innovation and transformation in Baltimore

4- Community and Collaboration

There are a lot of opportunities to celebrate Baltimore’s rich history and cutting edge innovation, simultaneously.  Opportunities will include educational programming, sponsored conference events, and umbrella programming with other partners and stakeholders throughout the city. We are approaching this in a very non-prescriptive way, but ultimately these core values anchor the Festival and its intentions for making this an exciting opportunity for all involved.

Will there be any conversation about reaching out to other people? Baltimore has a lot of great talent! How can we leverage connections throughout the creative network of producers that already exist in Baltimore?

Collaboration is central to our planning of Light City Baltimore.  In the Artists’ Call for Entry coming out in April, we will combine the visual and performing arts in the hopes that this fosters collaboration from the start. We are also hosting a community forum on the Light City Baltimore website. Sharing is key. Once a structure is in place, having committees form to brainstorm opportunities to connect and collaborate is one of our top priorities.  to share our vision and hear ideas from the arts community.

I’m a visual artist- are you considering any indoor facilities or spaces that will be able to house my work? What opportunities are there to build these spaces?

Light City Baltimore is approaching the festival design with a vision of eclectic spaces, both outdoors and indoors. There are a host of opportunities to activate under-utilized spaces, and create exhibition spaces in places not typical for viewing art. How can we do this?

One agency in Maryland has created refugee housing that is fully renewable and operates as a pop-up space, taking on a community village aspect of planning and housing design. Light City Baltimore can be a platform for talking about renewable resources, playing on the idea of more forward thinking, community based environments, executable spaces that are mobile or dynamic.

We have producers in Baltimore that can power the whole city with sustainable, LED lighting! How does this fit in?

We’re all for hearing more about it. Sustainability is one of our main goals- input around energy consumption and suggestions for better, greener solutions are welcome.

What is the geography of Light City Baltimore? The focus is on harbor and other surrounding neighborhoods right now, but what about growth over time, and branching out? What is the feasibility around geographical impact?

Year One is our make or break year; simply put, there can’t be a Year Two if Year One doesn’t go well. Light City Baltimore received some advice from international light festival experts: compact the festival into a smaller site plan and turn up the volume. Make a big splash in a concentrated geography, rather than dispersing exhibits in lots of places where their impact becomes more muted.

We have opted to approach Year One within a smaller geography around the Inner Harbor. However, we are broadly defining the harbor, and are currently in the process of locating potential sites from Locust Point to Fells Point. To start off our first year, Light City Baltimore needs to hone in on the geography for a walkable, high sensory experience for our visitors.

In the future, programming can extend to more far-reaching locations, including neighborhoods throughout the city and the arts and entertainment districts. Maybe the Charm City Circulator can do a light tour? The possibilities are limitless! But the reality of launching Light City Baltimore means creating the biggest impact possible in 2016 in order to make 2017 and beyond better with each year.

Light City Baltimore is just starting out, but we’re also looking at the trajectory leading to the future. What will Light City Baltimore look like in 2026? The geography of Light City can potentially spread beyond the harbor through grants, as well as fringe/independent events.  Even if not produced directly by BOPA, we will look to promote and publicize these events under the Light City umbrella.  More is more! One of the goals of Light City Baltimore is helping transform the city and its image, starting with its most recognizable and iconic places. The Inner Harbor is a platform for rooting the festival in this kind of impactful creative placemaking. Also, you can’t beat the view – the reflection of light installations, sculptures and projections on the water surrounding the festival will be exquisite (twice the light for the same price!).

Talk more about the innovation programming for LCB. Is it day-long conferences, multi day, ad hoc events, or a hybrid model?

Year one will host a proprietary conference and high tech expo. Visit Baltimore is holding dates over the next three years for branching out geographically, with options such as co-hosting other innovative technology conferences, co-locating with national segments – these can all be game changers!

We definitely are relying on feedback from the community about how the programming will take shape, looking at educational technology, medical technology, green technology, and the entertainment and gaming sectors, and other innovative approaches Light City will highlight. Considering the social impact of the community here, how can we approach this to be more viable?

The conference can function as an ideas forum, with thought leaders showcasing their practice or work, and exploring the social implications associated with this. Perhaps that takes form as break-out sessions, networking opportunities, or after hours social events, with umbrella events folding into the mix.

When we talk about thought leaders being present at the conference, we are not simply talking about hosting an ideas sharing session, but also coming together to find solutions to different problems.

Part of the opportunity for Light City Baltimore is to build on where we have the credibility in Baltimore to attract national and international innovators.  When we think of goals for the festival’s first year, part of that includes trying to build on our credibility so that Baltimore can attract thought leaders from around the country and the world.

There are two ways Light City Baltimore can go forward in its sustainability goals- a parallel approach vs integrated approaches to sustainability. With integrating approaches to sustainability, Light City Baltimore can know and record what the wattage and usage will be for the light elements. This can be off-set with solar power potentially. Ultimately though, making this known to the public can shape behaviors.

Great insights! This is exactly the kind of feedback that is useful to us during the planning stages.

What about preliminary events? Can folks bring ideas to the festival prior? Is it possible to host smaller scale events to build interest over the year prior to Light City launching?

The Ideas Sessions are designed not only to get feedback and create dialogue about the festival operations, but also to build and sustain interest throughout 2015. These sessions are a beginning stage to identify some key points, help BOPA create an accessible Call of Entry for all the artists interested, and will follow up with tours and other information sessions throughout 2015. After the Call of Entry is released in April, you can expect to see some of these smaller events starting to get organized. This also feeds back into our mission of collaboration; with smaller events such as the information sessions, we can provide artists with resources that can assist in the creation of new works across disciplines, help make connections between interested participants, or help familiarize artists with the site and how it works towards their own practice.

The LCB team will continue to liaise with the tech community, artists, musicians, performers, and community members in order to create an inclusive event. But we need conversations with lots of different stakeholders-harbor attractions, developers, colleges and universities, all need to be on the train together to make Light City Baltimore what we hope it can be!

We will be opening the Artists’ Call for Entry in late April, which will be accessible via the Light City Baltimore and BOPA websites. We will be working with visual and performing artists to host workshops and tours of the Light City Baltimore site area. Tours will be both land and water based.

Who are the people involved in making Light City Baltimore happen?

We are thrilled that we have such an amazing mix of stakeholders all passionately supporting the same goal! The collaboration created between BOPA, Visit Baltimore, What Weekly Studios, Steering Committee members, city agencies and community partners is rarely seen, and we are confident this is a source of strength for creating a new festival of this scale in Baltimore.

Visit Baltimore has committed to spending $500,000 each year for the first three years of the Festival. Baltimore is growing, growing, growing! The city is so much better than its national brand, and every time Visit Baltimore hosts those considering bringing a convention here, they are so impressed with all that Baltimore offers. Light City has the potential to generate enormous economic impact.

Baltimore is an ideas community! The Innovation Conference will reflect the innovation Baltimore continuously exhibits across different sectors. We know our part in making this happen, but we also need a strong committee to help guide how the Conference comes together.

BOPA is certainly no stranger to producing large scale art festivals, with Artscape entering into its 33rd year in 2015. BOPA also produces several annual and specialty events for the city including the Baltimore Book Festival, Free Fall Baltimore, the Ravens Superbowl Victory and MLK Parades, the Baltimore Farmer’s Market, and the Maryland film office. Over the course of its 30+ year history, BOPA has proudly served as this city’s art council and continues this mission with Light City Baltimore.

Jamie McDonald, Co-Chair of the Light City Baltimore Steering Committee, offers incredible insights from her twenty-six years as a Baltimore resident. Over this time, she has witnessed the growth of the city, and its continued rebirth. This is a very exciting time in Baltimore! Light City Baltimore can help change perceptions of the city, transforming it reflect Baltimore’s amazing community and culture. We are building a base with Light City Baltimore, and will use this platform as a way to successfully engage the wider community.

Colin Tarbert, Deputy Mayor of the Offices of Economic and Neighborhood Development, spoke about Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s recent “State of the City” address, the arts and its impact. Mayor Rawlings-Blake spoke of how innovation is driving positive changes. The innovation economy is the most important job creator we have in Baltimore, and Mayor Rawlings-Blake has announced doubling small business resource funding to keep that momentum up. Light City Baltimore can become a platform to market the city positively, as well as a way to showcase the innovation community by bringing together local, regional, national and international innovators.

Both Waterfront Partnerships and Downtown Partnerships are showing their support, and we look forward to seeing the scope of impact the partnerships are able to create with Light City Baltimore.

Thank you to all those who participated in this event, and provided feedback; and special thank you to Betamore and the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore (EAGB) for their role in organizing this event for Light City Baltimore.

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.

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