New BLINK Cincinnati festival plans to outshine Lumenocity

CINCINNATI — If Lumenocity was a local love song dedicated to the Queen City's architecture, art and music, next year's BLINK light and art festival will allow the city to shine for the world, said Haile U.S. Bank Foundation president Tim Maloney.

"You won't be able to see it all in one night," said Maloney, whose organization committed $1 million to put on the new four-day festival scheduled Oct. 12-15, 2017.

BLINK will span 20 city blocks connected by four zones along the Cincinnati Bell Connector streetcar route. Those zones include the Banks, Downtown's central business district, Over-the-Rhine near Washington Park and the area surrounding Findlay Market.

Each area will showcase light sculptures, murals, interactive displays and light projects created by local, national and international artists.

BLINK organizers estimate the four-day event will cost $3 million to stage. The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber will handle the logistics for what it believes will be the largest single event the city has ever hosted. Chamber leaders estimate Downtown and Over-the-Rhine could see an estimated 500,000 visitors to the free event.

In many ways, Lumenocity, the event pairing light projection mapping with performances by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, was a warm-up for BLINK. Lumenocity ended with its fourth and final year in August. 

"It was a great opportunity to expand and grow and push limits," Maloney said of Lumenocity, which the Haile Foundation sponsored and helped organize during its first three years. "Frankly, I wanted to move on to something else."

Planning for BLINK began two years ago when Maloney approached ArtWorks, marketing agency AGAR and Brave Berlin to lead BLINK's creative board.

Representatives from each organization then launched fact-finding missions around the world to see how other places staged large-scale light festivals. Those festivals included Vivid Sidney, the Brussels Light Festival, the London Lumiere and Germany's Luminale.

"Tim seeds ideas with money and then sits at the table to bring them to life," said Tamara Harkavy, CEO and artistic director of ArtWorks, whose organization's mission is to cultivate community impact through art. "There's an elegant brilliance to this that really does shine a brilliance on the city. I think it's so fresh and so exciting."

In the year leading up to BLINK, ArtWorks is responsible for helping to curate artists, shepherding interactive sculptural installations and engaging the community through events like a BLINK light parade.

"Hopefully that parade will have thousands of children going through the streets of Cincinnati on a beautiful October evening," Harkavy said.

ArtWorks will host its first information session for artists interested in participating in BLINK on Dec. 7. More information will be available at www.blinkcincinnati.com.

For its part, AGAR will help oversee the installation of dozens of permanent murals in "Zone 4," which is Findlay Market.

"We want to give something that will remain and enhance the neighborhood after the festival," said Andrew Salzbrun, a partner at AGAR.

Brave Berlin will work with a variety of artists to guide them through the process of light mapping and will create a few displays as well.

"We are going to do four or five installations ourselves," said Brave Berlin co-founder Steve McGowan. "And here is the fun part: Not only do we get to curate, we get to invite people in. We get to learn from folks who are maybe international."

"This is not an annual event," Maloney said. "I foresee this happening every other year. We want to build this as a regional event. I very much would like to have an installation in one of our neighborhoods in need. And those are things we can grow into."

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