The Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts (BOPA) implemented a rigorous docent training program for Light City 2017. Each evening docents lead tours of the 1.5 mile Inner Harbor installation sites. This document was used by BOPA staff and docent to help audience connect with the themes of ARGO from multiple perspectives and entry points. 

Promoting STEAM through science, art and the humanities...

An immersive installation, ARGO underscores the profound influence of water. Light and water share emotional and physical properties: both provide life or hope, and instill fear or trust. ARGO addresses events formed by and affecting water, and how Baltimore’s water systems are precariously changing.

The Greek myth of Jason and the Golden Fleece and the archetype of the hero’s quest serves as the inspiration for ARGO. The storyline mirrors the obstacles faced by Jason and his warrior crew of Argonauts. Chapter by chapter, the video underscores the challenges facing local aquatic environments. ARGO’s shape, video, and illuminations speak to an enveloping sensibility; inviting the public to consider their role as stewards. By highlighting the effects of human development on water through industrialization, fracking and urbanization, this work presents the audience with their own quest: to champion and advocate for the health of water systems in Baltimore and beyond.

Interactive programming, supported by the Maryland Science Center, focusing on light’s characteristics and a series of performances exploring local water issues will occur during Light City 2017.


The myth of Jason and the Golden Fleece is the story of a young man and his fight to win back his throne. Jason’s uncle murdered the king (Jason’s father) and has taken the kingdom. Jason was banished as a child, but has returned. To unite the kingdom, Jason and his warrior crew, called the Argonauts, set sail on a ship named Argo to find the Golden Fleece. The Golden Fleece was a cloak made from the golden-hair of a winged ram. After a treacherous journey and with the help of the sorceress Medea, Jason and the Argonauts obtain the Golden Fleece and return to the kingdom. (link)

In literature, an archetype is a universal symbol, like a character, situation, motif or theme. Examples of mythological archetypes include the hero, the villain, and the mentor, but also in familiar storylines like voyage or rebirth. The myth of Jason and the Golden Fleece, where the boat Argo appears, is an example of a quest. The hero or heroine’s quest is one of the most common archetypes in mythological storytelling. A quest is a journey where the main character must overcome their own faults and prove themselves. Over the course of their journey the main character meets friends and enemies, and as their journey ends the hero or heroine faces a final test.  (link)

Myths, like Jason and the Golden Fleece, are more than entertaining stories – for a culture they are tales with great significance that help explain the world and reflect universal ideas like good and evil, or life and death.  A culture creates myths to answer and address the unknown; passing along moral teachings from one generation to the next.

The video installation and projected imagery of ARGO is broken down into several chapters, and considers the wonder, beauty and power of water. By considering the relationship of water to natural and man-made systems, the viewer will have the opportunity to consider water systems from a holistic view.

Runoff is precipitation that was not absorbed into soil or did not evaporate, and travels over the ground surface collecting in different bodies of water. Runoff causes erosion, and can also carry chemicals and other substances to streams and rivers. Because of this, runoff can also cause water pollution. Agricultural runoff occurs when water moves off of land that is used commercially for raising plants and animals for food. (link)  Urban and Suburban runoff occurs when water passes overcity and neighborhoods streets picking up pollutants like pet waste, sediment, fertilizers, oil and automotive fluids. Both Agricultural and urban/suburban runoff, if left untreated, greatly affects water quality. “According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), urban and suburban stormwater is the source of about 15 percent of the total nitrogen entering the Chesapeake Bay, and is the only source that is still increasing.” (link)

“Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth.  A high-pressure water mixture is then directed at the rock to release the gas inside. Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well. The term fracking refers to how the rock is fractured apart by the high-pressure mixture.” Fracking uses huge amounts of water, which must be transported to the fracking site, at significant environmental cost. Environmentalists say potentially carcinogenic chemicals used may escape and contaminate groundwater around the fracking site. (link)

“Drilling and fracking have led to widespread reports of groundwater contamination, surface water contamination, significant air quality problems, public health concerns, economic losses to communities and a host of other problems across the country.” … “Reports about fracking in Maryland focus on Western Maryland at the Marcellus shale in Garrett and Allegany counties. Recent surveys have also shown gas deposits in central and eastern Maryland, too.” (link)

Myths are a traditional and active way to pass along critical information between generations; storytelling helps us unpack both historical obstacles and contemporary challenges. ARGO’s narrative is a call to action: to become aware and attempt to resolve the concerns surrounding water systems. We hope after experiencing ARGO the audience can begin to self-identify as stewards. 

Below are several local and national organizations working toward similar goals of consciousness and conservation.