Under the direction of Executive Director Todd Olson, the Columbia Festival of the Arts continues to bring fresh ideas to Columbia. Proven by positive feedback from the festival’s recent British Invasion, the festival’s more frequent year ’round themed format is bringing “Arts for Every Season” to an expanding audience.

In addition to updating its web site and social media with focused branding, the Columbia Festival of the Arts is stepping up its overall marketing strategy and reach. Although the festival’s primary core audience comes from within Columbia, Ellicott City and Clarksville, attendees are supporting Columbia Festival of the Arts from across a wide area, including Virginia; Washington, D.C.; and metropolitan Baltimore.

By the Numbers

The National Endowment of the Arts recently released research reports that detailed motivations and barriers across the United States pertaining to why or why not people choose to attend the arts. The Columbia Festival of the Arts surveys mirror this countrywide data with similar numbers: 73% of all Americans who attend the arts do so to socialize with friends or family. There is great motivation to engage with our loved ones in a creative environment.

On the other hand, 22% choose not to go out because they have no one to go with. And overall, 37% find access to a venue or event a challenge, particularly with older adults. Not surprisingly, 47% stated that time is a barrier to attending the arts, with many lives complicated with family, kids, appointments and work.

However, there is a clear value to the arts and local organizations, as 51% of respondents indicate a desire to support their community as a further motivation to attend events.

Loving Learning

Using these insights, the Columbia Festival of the Arts is developing creative methods to engage audiences and overcome some of these barriers. For example, the festival is working with area restaurants to provide discounts and cooperative special offers that may prove an incentive for family and friends to share valuable time together during the show.

For individuals seeking someone to join them at a festival event, participating with innovative programs such meetup.com creates community and interactive opportunities. Further, the Columbia Festival of the Arts is programming a variety of accessible performance times across multiple dates, which helps address concerns of overtaxed schedules.

The Festival’s fall “British Invasion” survey results further support National Endowment of the Arts statistics showing that 64% of arts attendees participate “because of a desire to learn new things.” On that note, historian and author Timothy Baughman engaged a sold-out house with his inspired lecture on Sir Ernest Shackelton’s Antarctic expedition in 1914; new play readings of “41N 50W,” based on the 1912 Titanic U.S. Senate hearings, and Columbia Voices, a new play inspired by the history of Columbia’s founding in 1967, were also popular.

What’s Next?

Looking forward, Columbia Festival of the Arts is planning three themes that offer greater diversity and opportunities for community involvement. Starting in February, for the winter festival, is “Beyond the Blues,” a jazz and blues music show, along with other art forms inspired by the African diaspora. Play readings, screenings of documentary and feature films, plus a gallery show in conjunction with the Columbia Arts Center will equate to more visual arts.

April 2016 festival programming celebrates life with “Viva la Vida” and focuses on Hispanic and Latino artists and art forms. The 2015–16 fiscal year will conclude in June 2016 with “Silk Road Stories,” celebrating the cultural influence and exchange across the Asian continent. Dance will play a major role, with classical pianists and artists from this region of the world.

Festival plans also include a re-imagined outdoor celebration as part of the summer festival in Symphony Woods. This June, tradition will continue to offer live performances on the brand new Chrysalis Stage, with children’s activities, a fine arts and crafts show, workshops, food and more. This free component enables the festival to attract audiences from all socio-economic backgrounds, some of whom might not otherwise attend/have the opportunity to appreciate live performance art.

If any restaurants or other regional businesses would be interested in cooperative special events or programs with Columbia Festival of the Arts, contact Marketing and Communications Director Robert Neal Marshall at [email protected] or via www.ColumbiaFestival.org.