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What Works Studio

Abell Foundation

Case Study: Light City



Light City Baltimore, held in the spring of 2016, was an international festival of “light, music and innovation” – the first of its kind in the United States.  Light City showcased international and Baltimore artists through 28 nighttime light installations located around the Inner Harbor, 50 concerts, 100 performances, 5 community-based initiatives called “Neighborhood Lights,” and four daytime conferences focused on social innovation in Baltimore.  Light City drew an impressive 400,000 attendees to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, including 223,000 City residents, 121,600 visitors from out-of-state, and 55,400 visitors from other parts of Maryland.  The event generated an estimated $19.9 million in direct spending in Baltimore, leading to an additional estimated $13.9 million in indirect impact and $30.5 million in employment wages in Maryland.

Light City also generated good will at a time when the City needed it.  The value of Light City’s print, broadcast and online publications coverage totaled more than $1.96 million.  More than 350 media blurbs reached an audience of 227.6 million from November 2015 to April 2016, increasing awareness and improving perceptions for the City of Baltimore, according to the results of a BFAI survey of attendees.

Light City was the brainchild of Brooke Hall and Justin Allen, two visionary young entrepreneurs who had seen images of the Vivid Sydney festival in Australia and asked why it couldn’t happen here in Baltimore.  With funding from the Abell Foundation, Brooke and Justin brought the artistic director of Vivid Sydney to Baltimore in March of 2014 to assess the City’s potential.  Two years later, under the production leadership of the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts (BOPA) and with support from the Abell Foundation among many others, Light City came to fruition and by all accounts was a tremendous success.