Columbia fest posts big gains over '97 14,000 attend 1st weekend, generating $39,000

hopes high for final tally

June 26, 1998|By Dana Hedgpeth | Dana Hedgpeth,SUN STAFF

Columbia Festival of the Arts generated about $39,000 in its first weekend -- almost double what it made in that period last year, organizers said yesterday.

About 14,000 attended 12 shows and workshops last weekend, including more than 600 patrons at three shows of the Junction Avenue Theatre Company of Johannesburg, South Africa.

Last year, organizers grossed $21,600 from seven events during the festival's first weekend.

The festival -- now in its 10th year -- ends Sunday with a concert by Aretha Franklin, the "queen of soul." Organizers say 5,000 tickets -- mostly $35 and $25 pavilion seats -- have been sold.

Franklin's performance at Merriweather Post Pavilion illustrates the transformation of the 10-day festival. Instead of keeping all events at the same place, the festival has presented some of its 250 performances and 100 family-oriented workshops at various Columbia halls and theaters, including the new Rouse Theater at Wilde Lake High School.

National and international names at the festival include Takoma Park's Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, samba king Jose Alberto "El Canario," Canada's Quartetto Gelato and the Baltimore-Washington Jazz Fest.

"We've expanded. We're offering a broad diversity of programs from South African performers to family events to an orchestra," said Katherine Knowles, executive director of the festival.

With its main feature being two performances by the Miami City Ballet in the second week, last year's festival grossed about $92,000. Knowles said she expects this year's event to exceed that.

Thirty-eight artists are displaying their work in "The Store," an art exhibit at Wilde Lake High School, to avoid problems with the weather and make it more accessible. In the past, artists set up booths by Lake Kittamaqundi.

"It did help that in having the art show set up at a school where performances were happening, people found us as they were wandering around looking for something to do during a 15-minute intermission," said Linda Calin of Mount Airy, who sold pottery at the festival. "But it is easier to talk to a particular artist if the person has her own booth."

Pub Date: 6/26/98

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