Light City shines positive spotlight on Baltimore

Baltimore's Inner Harbor will be home to the first and largest light festival in North America. The lights go up at sundown Monday through Saturday night. 

"When we heard about Light City, we thought that light is really an interesting cross point between art and physics so we thought it would be an interesting exercise to work on a proposal together and when our proposal was selected, the pressure was kind of onto make it," Kristin McWharter said.

She's been working to set up her LED light board and 100 foot long mural. It took months for her and her partner to build out this idea.

Dodging the gusts of wind Monday to make final adjustments, the images will come to life beginning at 7 p.m.

Light City will feature about 30 other artists, 50 attractions, a 1.5 mile light walk and concerts throughout the week. 

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Light City Baltimore took just over a year to put together. It's a non-profit festival with some lofty goals. 

"Something that becomes a new annual tradition as wonderful as Artscape and Preakness and the Book Festival, but in a different kind of way. Literally shining a light on what is positive here in our city," Kathy Hornig said, the director of festivals, Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts. 

The festival comes almost a year after a different kind of spotlight fell on Charm City. While Baltimore tries to make real progress in what caused last year's riots, the images have left in indelible mark. Many hope this festival begins to

"Last year during the unrest, maybe CNN didn't have anything positive to say about Baltimore at the time," said president and CEO of Visit Baltimore, Tom Noonan. "Now here we are almost a year later and CNN came out with a list of 16 things you need to do in America this year and one of them is Light City Baltimore."

There is still a big question of what impact the festival will have. Economically, Visit Baltimore won't make a project just yet. Organically, the hops are high, not just to re-brand Baltimore, but eventually, as it grows, the artists hope this festival helps heal Baltimore.

"I am really curious about those questions and I am interested to see what kind of impact Light City will have," McWharter said. "It could grow down Howard Street or it can grow into the east side or the west side. Especially with the neighborhood projects bring a lot of attention to areas that are often ignored. The harbor is an awesome place as a starting point for the first year of the festival, but I think there is so much opportunity to expand it."

Light City Baltimore has already expanded for next year. The city has committed to 10 days in 2017 and eventually envisions the festival as a citywide event. 

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