Arts scene offers diverse picture

Variety: The visual and performing arts in Howard are growing rapidly -- even faster than the population.

March 21, 2004|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The arts are flourishing in Howard County.

From theater groups to dance troupes, and from museum displays to jazz and classical concerts, the growing county boasts a rich and varied menu of cultural offerings - a picture confirmed by ArtsVision, a recent study done for the Howard County Arts Council, in partnership with Vision Howard County.

The study, by Jean Moon Associates, noted that while the county's population increased 13 percent between 1995 and 2000, attendance at arts events such as plays, musical productions and museums, jumped 90 percent.

"By 2001, there were more than 100 nonprofit and for-profit arts organization in the county," the report said.

The study also noted that the groups are becoming more varied and are reflecting the diverse cultures of the county. In 1996, for example, the Hua Sha Chinese Dance Center began its mission of preserving and promoting Chinese culture through dance.

"We want to be a cultural bridge connecting the Eastern and Western cultures," said Director Xiao Fang Xu, who was born in Shanghai. She's doing it through lessons and performances.

The Baltimore-Washington JAZZfest, founded in 1994, has a mission of bringing African-American culture to the public, while promoting its parent organization, the African Art Museum of Maryland.

It often seems as though there's something for everyone.

The No Boundaries Musical Theatre Program is specifically for young adults with mild to moderate disabilities. The Fabulous Fifty-Plus Players gives older thespians opportunities to participate on stage or behind the scenes. Both of the programs are at the Howard County Center for the Arts, a modest building in Ellicott City that has been a centerpiece of the local arts scene since 1981.

Elsewhere in the county, annual events include the Columbia Festival of the Arts, which brought Mikhail Baryshnikov to town last year; Sunset Serenades, which draws hundreds of visitors to Centennial Park to hear live music; and the Lakefront Summer Festival, which presents live music and movies for free at Columbia's Town Center Lakefront.

The county is home to a vibrant classical music scene. Columbia Pro Cantare, founded in 1977, performs vocal and choral compositions from the 10th to the 21st centuries. The Sundays at Three chamber music series brings some of the finest musicians in the Baltimore-Washington area to Christ Episcopal Church in Columbia. Candlelight Concert Society presents ensemble concerts, recitals and chamber music concerts.

The visual arts are well-represented, too, with works by local artists displayed at the Artists' Gallery, Howard County Center for the Arts, Slayton House Gallery and Columbia Association Art Center.

As for the spoken word, the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society, known as HoCoPoLitSo, has been bringing distinguished writers to the local community for thirty years, including Saul Bellow, Lucille Clifton and Garrison Keillor.

And stage devotees can check out productions at Toby's Dinner Theater, the Rep Stage at Howard Community College and the Columbia Community Players' Slayton House Theatre.

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