It’s back to the future this summer for the Columbia Festival of the Arts (CFA), as the nonprofit arts organization celebrates its 30th anniversary and salutes Columbia’s 50th birthday with a lineup of free and ticketed events and performances.
According to David Phillips, the CFA’s new executive director, the return to the Festival’s roots as an annual summer arts celebration was an easy decision.
“The community looks forward to starting their summer each year with the Columbia Festival of the Arts and our eclectic mix of international, national, regional and local talent,” he said. “This year promises to be the best Festival ever. We’re pulling out all the stops to salute Columbia’s 50th.”

The Kickoff
The 2017 summer Festival begins with the return of the iconic and popular LakeFest Free Weekend on June 16, 17 and 18. Headlining the weekend is the United Kingdom’s Architects of Air: Katena Luminarium, a soaring, 35-foot-high, lighted inflatable sculpture that has been wowing audiences worldwide. Festival-goers will enter the sculpture on foot and take a walk on the wild side through a surreal world, touring an array of visually stunning interiors.
Also returning to LakeFest is the Festival’s acclaimed Invitational Fine Arts & Crafts Show, featuring more than 60 artisans from around the region, displaying and selling original work including ceramics, painting, jewelry, mixed media, photography and more. New to the three-day free weekend will be the Taste of Columbia food festival, sponsored by Whole Foods Market and Howard On Tap, a beer pavilion sponsored by Clyde’s, of Columbia.
Throughout the opening weekend on the LakeStage, music lovers will hear live performances from the region’s top bands, including the Cynthia Marie Trio, Columbia Concert Band, Donegal Xpress, Elikeh, the Columbia Jazz Band, Nelly’s Echo, Laney Jones and the Spirits, the United States Navy Band Cruisers, Junkyard Saints, the Glenelg Jazz Ensemble and many more.
For many patrons, the LakeFest weekend is family fun time. There will be lots of activities just for the kids, including arts and crafts activities, presented in partnership with KidzArt Howard County. Children will explore the visual arts through activities in 45-minute sessions led by the staff of KidzArt.

Sounds of N’awlins
Following the LakeFest Free Weekend, the soaring falsetto sounds of Aaron Neville, the legendary ambassador of New Orleans Rhythm and Blues, will ring out in a concert at the Jim Rouse Theatre.
The Aaron Neville Duo concert on Sunday, June 18, kicks off seven days of ticketed events that offer something for everyone. For film aficionados, Sundance Shorts on Tour, the Sundance Film Festival’s acclaimed showcase of juried short films, is back again; also returning is the Sprout Film Festival, presented in partnership with The Arc of Howard County and Autism Howard County. It will feature films created by, for and about people with special needs.
For those who enjoy theatrical story-telling in a visually stunning multi-media experience, the Festival is presenting Manual Cinema: “The End of TV.” A Chicago-based performance collective, Manual Cinema uses a creative blend of handmade shadow puppetry, cinematic techniques and innovative sound and music to create immersive visual stories for stage and screen. The New York Times’ Ben Brantley said, “This Chicago troupe is conjuring phantasms to die for ….”
“The End of TV” is a brand-new show, debuting at this year’s Festival, and tells the story of Detroit though the eyes of three women: a factory worker, a filmmaker and a talk show host. This engagement of the Manual Cinema is made possible through the Arts CONNECT program of the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Back for More
Back by popular demand this year is the Stoop Storytelling Series, a story-sharing event giving seven local people seven minutes each to tell a true, personal tale on a shared theme in front of a live audience. Since its founding in 2006, The Stoop has featured the stories of close to 1,000 Baltimoreans, guided by its motto that “Everyone has a story. What’s yours?”
As an exciting prelude to this year’s summer events in June, the Festival presented a concert on April 1 by iconic folk singer Judy Collins to a sold-out crowd at the Rouse Theatre.
Tickets are on sale now to the 2017 Columbia Festival of the Arts. Visit or call 410-715-3044 for more information.