BOPA rolls Light City, Baltimore Book Festival into one event, moves it all to November 2019

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Photo by J.M. Giordano

The Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts is combining two of the city’s biggest events, the three-year-old Light City festival and the 23-year-old Baltimore Book Festival, into one, into one 10-day stretch during fall of 2019.

Both of the popular Inner Harbor attractions will run from Nov. 1-10, 2019, timed to coincide with the end of daylight savings time (which means early evenings) and what BOPA said is a trend of publishers releasing more books in mid-autumn.

BOPA spokeswoman Tracy Baskerville said today that the initial idea to combining it all would be that the book festival would run primarily from Nov. 1-3, with some additional programming throughout the week, and Light City for all 10 days. However, that’s still being sorted out.

“There’s gonna be more concrete information to come,” she said.

The affair will include most of the same attractions that the separate festivals currently have: Readings, book signings, meet-and-greets, vendor tents and demos for the book festival, and the Light Art Walk, musical performances, family activities and other fanfare for Light City.

Light City’s conferences portion, known previously as [email protected] City, will come under the Baltimore Book Festival’s purview, with assorted Q&As, presentations, panels and workshops.

BOPA CEO Donna Drew Sawyer, who’s both an author and a career arts administrator, stepped into the vacancy left by longtime nonprofit head Bill Gilmore in July. At a presser today in the 27th-floor Top of the World observatory in the Inner Harbor, she said she spent her first 100 days with BOPA listening and talking to staff, artists, financial partners, public officials and Baltimore community members.

“What came out of those enlightening conversations was the realization that there was not a single spark we could ignite–there were two, flickering right in front of us,” she said. “Two of BOPA’s major creative initiatives are great on their own, but had the potential to exponentially illuminate each other and have an audacious creative impact on the city of Baltimore.”

Light City attracts around 400,000 people to the Inner Harbor, and the Baltimore Book Festival usually draws around 100,000, she noted.

Mayor Catherine Pugh said she loved the idea of merging the events at first mention from Sawyer. After touching on Baltimore’s more pressing problems, including ongoing violence, an abundance of illegal guns on city streets and a woefully understaffed police department, she shifted the conversation back to Baltimore’s outward appeal and the role BOPA plays in it.

“You all make a difference in how we tell our story and how we promote our city. And that’s why we call it the Baltimore Office of Promotion and Arts, because not only are they creating events that become signature events that showcase our city, they are also showcasing our city not just to the citizens of Baltimore, but to the rest of the world.”

The combination of the two events was the big announcement; details on speakers and performers are still forthcoming. Applications open up for performers, food vendors, booksellers, authors and exhibitors on Jan. 9, 2019, according to a release sent out after the presser.

BOPA had already announced dates for Light City in June, saying it would run from April 5-13, 2019. But that’s no longer the plan.

But the process for planning the festival was already at least somewhat underway. The deadline for light art submissions by artists was Aug. 27. Sawyer noted than more than 100 light artists across five of the seven continents have already submitted proposals for the BGE Light Art Walk, Light City’s main visual attraction dotting the harbor.

Ethan McLeod
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