Home Is Where the Art Is

June 18, 1993

A short five years after its inception, the Columbia Festival of the Arts is recognized as an important cultural happening, not just for Howard County but for the entire Mid-Atlantic region. Perhaps only Baltimore City's Artscape is a comparable event in the metropolitan area.

The 10-day Columbia festival, which opens today and continues through June 27 at various venues around town, has made stunning progress since its 1989 debut.

Just consider logistics and statistics. The initial gathering was run with a paid staff of three, 100 volunteers and a budget of $200,000, and was attended by about 6,500 people. Now the staff numbers 20, the volunteers 300, and the budget has more than doubled, to $500,000. In addition, when the final curtain falls 10 days from now, it is expected that 25,000 people will have enjoyed the festival.

People of all ages and interests from around the region should have no trouble finding plenty to hold their attention. There will be performances and workshops in music (in various genres ranging from classical to jazz to bluegrass) and dance (ranging HTC from ballet to African). And don't overlook the poetry readings, the dramatic performances and the displays of crafts and of visual arts.

Bring the kids? By all means; they can be admitted to many of the festival activities for free or at a discounted price.

As has become customary in recent years, the Columbia festival schedule boasts internationally known artists who would bring honor to any cultural event. This year, the big names include jazz drumming giant Max Roach, Celtic harpist Alan Stivell and fiddler Mark O'Connor, not to mention a group of local musicians whose renown has grown considerably in recent years -- the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

It's nice to see the stars come out, but the many abundantly talented, lesser-known, home-grown artists on the program are the ones who give the Columbia Festival of the Arts much of its distinct flavor.

Howard County can be proud to have a healthy arts scene, as represented by the theater productions and visual art exhibits at Wilde Lake's Slayton House, the annual Ellicott City May Arts Festival and now the Columbia Festival of the Arts, which very quickly has done much to build Howard's reputation as a place where art and artists can feel at home.

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