BOPA Reveals Light City 2017 Economic Impact and Visitor Figures, Announces Dates for Next Year’s Festival

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“Light Happenings Part II,” by Labbodies. Photo by Stephen Babcock.

Baltimore’s third Light City festival will run from April 14-21, 2018, following a three-day “Neighborhood Lights 2018” event earlier in the month, the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts announced today.

BOPA, which produces Light City, wasted no time announcing next year’s plans after revealing the estimated number of visitors and economic impact from this year’s festival. Light City 2017 brought 470,000 nighttime visitors to the Inner Harbor and had a total economic impact of more than $44.3 million, the agency said.

Those visitors generated $26.06 million in direct spending, and injected another $18.24 million in indirect spending, according to an economic impact study conducted by Forward Analytics of Pennsylvania. The State of Maryland received an estimated $1.55 million in tax revenue from the economic activity; the City of Baltimore gained an estimated $732,100.

BOPA said the impact figures typically measure “new money” brought into the economy by outside visitors, which is then spent locally. Spending by city residents represents a redistribution of existing money in the community, and was therefore not included in the study.

“The team at the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts is extremely proud of the impact that festivals like Light City have on the local creative economy. The ability to provide jobs and a national spotlight for artists, musicians and performing artists is profound,” said Bill Gilmore, outgoing CEO of BOPA, in a statement.

According to BOPA, research showed more than 137,700 of the 470,000 attendees — roughly 29 percent — were Baltimore City residents and 106,700 — nearly 23 percent — were residents from the area, but outside the city limits. About a third of the visitors came from out-of-state. Each non-local visitor spent an estimated $80 during their time here.

Survey respondents included residents of 22 other states, with the majority of out-of-state visitors coming from D.C., Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey and New York. Eighty-one percent indicated the festival was their “main reason for visiting the Baltimore area today” at the time.

In addition to visitor spending, BOPA said, producing Light City significantly affected Baltimore’s economy. While the festival is free for visitors, BOPA’s cost to produce Light City is approximately $3.7 million, which is comprised mostly of foundation grants and sponsor dollars.

Forty-seven percent of the operating budget was spent in Baltimore, and 12.5 percent of operating expenses were with businesses and services in Baltimore County.

The agency also said Light City generated an estimated publicity value of $1.86 million in out-of-market coverage and $1.19 million in local and regional media coverage for Baltimore. In total, the festival was covered in the media more than 570 times, reaching 1.09 billion people from January to April 2017. It also garnered 878,900 social media impressions on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter during the festival.

BOPA has already opened a call for entry to artists for next year’s festival. The deadline for proposals is Monday, July 31, 2017. More information about how to submit a proposal is available here.

As the kickoff to Light City 2018, Neighborhood Lights will be held Friday, April 6, through Sunday, April 8, with some installations on view for a longer period. BOPA is seeking neighborhood partners to work directly with an artist-in-residence to create an illuminated public art project within their neighborhood. Proposals are due Monday, July 2, 2017. More info available here.

Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.
Ed Gunts


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