Rising Star search puts the spotlight on local talent

Contest: The Howard County Arts Council showcase features artists with ties to the county vying for $5,000.

Howard Live

Arts and entertainment in Howard County

April 15, 2005|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

In Howard County, more than 100 artistic organizations and many more individuals pursue their visions in music, dance, paint, sculpture and other media. But once a year, the Howard County Arts Council brings the artistic community together under one roof to celebrate and to raise funds for grants and other programs.

Tomorrow night at Jim Rouse Theatre in Columbia, musical and dance performances and a silent auction of visual art will be highlights of the annual Celebration of the Arts gala benefit.

Amid the camaraderie, an element of competition keeps things lively. For the third year, the gala will feature performances by several artists vying for the $5,000 Mulitz-Gudelsky Family Rising Star Award.

Inspired by televised talent competitions like Star Search and American Idol, the Rising Star competition proved popular with audiences. Each year several singers, dancers and instrumentalists - each of whom has lived, worked or studied in Howard County at some point - perform, and the audience votes for its favorite.

"The concept has really captured the imagination of the community," said Coleen West, executive director of the Arts Council. It provides entertainment during the gala, she said, and "the anticipation during the event is evident."

This year, nine artists - two modern dancers, two instrumentalists, four vocalists and one singer/songwriter - will perform. The finalists were chosen out of nearly 25 contestants who auditioned.

Those who attend and donors "believe it is worthwhile to provide a young person the means to continue their career in the arts," West said.

Last year's winner, singer Carly Hughes, 22, used the award to cover her expenses when she moved to New York City in the fall to pursue a career in musical theater. A graduate of Wilde Lake High School and Penn State University, Hughes said the award "is a very wonderful thing."

"Sometimes people get stuck because of circumstances," as they try to pursue a career in the arts, she said. With the prize, "It wasn't so rough for me," she said, noting that she did not have to take a nonmusical job and was able to focus on networking and auditioning.

Hughes is performing in Lowell, Mass. in a show called Constant Star, about the life of civil rights activist Ida B. Wells.

The contest is not the only opportunity to see Howard County artists in action tomorrow. The gala began as a showcase for all types of local artists, and West said, "We still try to weave everything in."

About 100 paintings, sculptures, pieces of jewelry and other works by local artists will be for sale in a silent auction. There will be performances by the Hua Sha Chinese Dancers, actors from the Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts and singer Carole Lehan, among others.

The evening will also feature food from more than 20 local restaurants and caterers. Honorary Chairs are Denise Koch, an anchorwoman at WJZ-TV and Jack Phippin, a director and theater professor who currently works with Rep Stage.

The Celebration of the Arts will begin at 6 p.m. and the Rising Star contest and other main stage entertainment is set to begin at 8 p.m. Tickets and information: the Arts Council, 410-313-2787.

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