Nichole Hickey, who has served as executive director of the Columbia Festival of the Arts since 2004, said she will step down after the 2014 season.

"When I took the reins at Columbia Festival of the Arts, it was supposed to be a temporary position, but 12 years later, I couldn't be happier with my time spent at this organization," said Hickey in statement released on Tuesday. "I have had a chance to delve into and make an impact on the arts community in Howard County and meet incredible people along the way. ... It's now time for me to move on and get back to creating, versus presenting."

Hickey joined the festival staff in the fall of 2002 as the part-time deputy director responsible for administrative operations and visual arts programming. Hickey will oversee the programming of the 2014 season and the start of the festival's new strategic plan.

"Nichole has been an energetic, committed and passionate force at the Columbia Festival of the Arts for nearly 12 years," said Larry Coppel, president of the Board of Trustees for Columbia Festival of the Arts, in a statement. "Thanks to her leadership, the festival has a stronger community, artistic and financial presence with Howard County, and we look forward to building upon the foundation that she has created."


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Hickey's husband, Michael Hickey, was a founding member of Columbia Festival of the Arts. He also was the superintendent for the county school system for 16 years.

The Columbia Festival of the Arts has both free and ticketed events that feature a number of performances, exhibitions, concerts, family activities, classes and workshops. Its 27th season will be held June 13-28, 2014.