Howard County's arts scene

A scene from Rep Stage's production of "All She Must Possess" from 2018. The theater company, an Equity troupe, is based on the Howard Community College campus.
A scene from Rep Stage's production of "All She Must Possess" from 2018. The theater company, an Equity troupe, is based on the Howard Community College campus. (Katie Simmons-Barth)

One area Howard County can certainly boast about is its vibrant arts scene, with an abundance of choices that include theater, music and dance companies, as well as free outdoor concerts at downtown Columbia’s Lakefront on Lake Kittamaqundi, Centennial Park and Columbia’s village centers. Performances are staged throughout the year at local venues.



Jim Rouse Theatre for the Performing Arts at Wilde Lake High School is a 747-seat theater that hosts high school and community events as well as traveling acts. All tickets are purchased through the organization presenting the performance.

410-313-8293, rousetheatre.org


Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods’ Chrysalis Amphitheater hosts concerts and theatrical productions for up to 8,000 people through the stand-alone nonprofit Inner Arbor Trust, which also hosts cultural and community events April through December. Three series provide mostly free performances on the amphitheater stage: family and children’s programming using regional theater troupes, a series of cross-genre performances from orchestral to jazz and cabaret performances that provide intimate shows with noted jazz, rock and Christian performers for the 2019 season.

443-832-3223, innerarbortrust.org

Merriweather Post Pavilion, an open-air amphitheater in Columbia’s Symphony Woods, has become a major stopping-off point on the pop music circuit, offering everything from rap to folk, from Phish to country singer Jason Aldean.

410-715-5550, merriweathermusic.com

Whether you are always on the go or just looking to kick back and relax, you’ll find an activity that fits your interests — from hiking and biking to bird-watching and golf.

The Peter and Elizabeth Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center at Howard Community College houses, among other facilities, Smith Theatre, the John G. Monteabaro Recital Hall and a state-of-the-art black box theater.

443-518-1490, howardcc.edu


Candlelight Concerts is a subscription season at Howard Community College that regularly attracts top talent to its chamber music series, and includes a children’s concert series. The society also holds free events throughout the community, from lectures to special performances in special needs and senior citizen facilities and schools.

410-997-2324, candlelightconcerts.org

Chalice Concert Series presents the mid-Atlantic region’s finest chamber musicians in the Owen Brown Interfaith Center’s acoustically dynamic sanctuary addition.

410-381-0097, uucolumbia.net

One World Coffeehouse takes place monthly at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center, offering an eclectic blend of folk, blues, world music, jazz and rock.

410-381-0097, uucolumbia.net

Second Saturday Cafe hosts the region’s top acts in the jazz, blues and rock genres, performing in the cozy space of Oliver’s Carriage House in Columbia’s Town Center.

410-913-9812, 2ndsaturdaycafe.com

Do you ever find yourself saying you have nowhere to go or nothing to do? Not this year. Whether you like the arts or something more active, Howard County will host a year full of events that are sure to get you out of the house.

Sundays at Three Chamber Music Series brings professional chamber music to Christ Episcopal Church in Columbia.


Sunset Serenades are free concerts in a variety of genres held each Wednesday at Centennial Park from June through August.

410-313-4700, howardcountymd.gov/sunsetserenades


Chesapeake Shakespeare Company In-the-Ruins produces two family-friendly plays each June and July inside the remains of the Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park, where it has performed since 2003. The professional company hires actors from the Maryland/D.C. region, and also offers a summer camp.

410-244-8570, chesapeakeshakespeare.com

Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts employs actors, directors, writers, musicians and technicians to immerse young people in the art of performing through a variety of programs.

410-381-0700, cctarts.org

Howard County Summer Theatre, celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, features family-oriented musicals using youth casts and all-ages companies.


Red Branch Theatre Company produces three to four shows a season, from plays to musicals, contemporary and family works, as a company-in-resident at Drama Learning Center in Columbia

410-997-9352, redbranchtheatrecompany.com

Rep Stage Company, based at Howard Community College, is the county’s first Actors’ Equity troupe, featuring the area’s premier acting talent in challenging plays.

443-518-1500, repstage.org

Toby’s Dinner Theatre specializes in Broadway-style musical fare, presented with a live band, professional costuming and inventive staging in the Columbia location, where it is celebrating its 40th season this year.

410-730-8311, tobysdinnertheatre.com


Columbia Bands is a nonprofit for nonprofessional musicians that performs in three groups — a concert band, a jazz band and a “flute cocktail” — at free community concerts and other events.


The Columbia Jazz Band performs under the auspices of the Columbia Orchestra, playing big band, Latin jazz, blues and standards.


More than 2,000 people voted in Howard Magazine’s Best Restaurants readers’ poll, selecting their favorites in 45 categories.

The Columbia Orchestra was founded in 1977. The ensemble, led by music director Jason Love, offers orchestral, jazz and chamber concerts with instrumental works ranging from classic to contemporary composers.

410-465-8777, columbiaorchestra.org

Columbia Pro Cantare is a volunteer choir that presents programs ranging from operatic works to spirituals.

410-799-9321, procantare.org

Howard County Concert Orchestra is a professional chamber orchestra that performs classical to contemporary arrangements with anywhere from six to 45 professional musicians.

888-921-7230, hococo.org

Peabody Children’s Chorus trains girls and boys ages 6 to 18 with unchanged voices in music from a variety of genres and time periods in five ensembles on two campuses, one of which is in Howard County.

667-208-6640, peabody.jhu.edu/pcc

Voices 21 chamber chorus, led by founding director Dr. Jesse Parker, specializes in a cappella music and performs in churches, retirement communities and other venues. The organization is based in southern Howard County with rehearsals in College Park.

240-643-6563, voicesxxi.org


African Art Museum of Maryland, founded in 1980, is located in Fulton’s Maple Lawn and offers a rare collection of African artifacts and folk art. Staffed entirely by volunteers, including the museum’s founder and director Doris Ligon, the museum offers programs during Women’s History Month and regularly organizes trips to Africa.

301-490-6070, africanartmuseum.org

Columbia Art Center in the village of Long Reach has provided resources for ceramic artists, photographers, calligraphers, woodworkers and others since 1987. It also hosts a literary series with local poets and authors, and a monthly salon featuring local artists, actors, musicians and others, a rotating gallery of exhibitions and a summer art camp for children.


410-730-0075, columbiaartcenter.org

Clarksville neighborhood column

Howard County Center for the Arts, located in a former elementary school in Ellicott City, houses two galleries in addition to a black-box theater in Ellicott City. It is also the seat of the Howard County Arts Council.

410-313-2787, hocoarts.org

Howard County Center of African American Culture houses African-American memorabilia, artifacts and an art gallery at its Columbia location, and a research library with approximately 10,000 publications and records at Howard Community College.

410-715-1921, hccaac.org

Local artists also exhibit at the Artists’ Gallery on Ellicott City’s Main Street, The Rouse Company Foundation Gallery at Howard Community College, The Bernice Kish Gallery at Slayton House in Wilde Lake, The Meeting House Gallery in Oakland Mills and informal exhibition spaces at the Bain 50 Plus Center, at shops in historic Ellicott City and elsewhere. Visual artists and crafts people share a handsome and historic complex at Savage Mill.


Columbia Association’s International Book Club meets monthly to discuss a book with multicultural and worldwide themes.

410-715-3162, ColumbiaAssociation.org/multicultural

Howard County Poetry and Literature Society — often abbreviated “HoCoPoLitSo” — has been bringing imaginative literary events, workshops and distinguished writers to student and adult audiences since 1974. Saul Bellow, Lucille Clifton, Tyehimba Jess and Mary Oliver have given public readings under the auspices of the community-based not-for-profit.

443-518-4568, hocopolitso.org


CJC Jewish Film Series offers four movies with Jewish themes in English, Hebrew and foreign languages with subtitles. Viewings include refreshments as well as an optional discussion.

410-730-6044, columbiajewish.org

Columbia Film Society brings the latest in distinguished foreign films to the Horowitz Center at Howard Community College in an annual subscription series. Tickets are sold out for the current season, but sales for the 2019-2020 season begin in July or August.


Each Monday night, Arti Sardesai drives to the Miller Library in Ellicott City and immerses herself in learning Korean. At 49, it’s not easy mastering a foreign tongue, but Sardesai believes it will benefit her work as an occupational therapist in the area.

Howard County has two 14-screen movie theaters offering the latest Hollywood releases:

AMC Columbia Mall 14


Columbia United Artists Theatres Snowden Square 14



Local dance troupes present regular showcases, and a variety of commercial dance studios provide training for a new generation:

Arabesque Dance Company

410-381-0017, livetodance.com

Arthur Murray Dance Studio

410-772-7880, dancecolumbia.com

Backstage Dance Studio

410-312-0900, thebackstagedancestudio.com

Ballet Conservatoire XIV

410-696-1346, conservatoirexiv.com

Ballet with Cindee Velle

410-465-7674, cindeevelleballet.com

b.Funk Dance Company

410-313-8199, bfunk.com

In 1950, Howard County was a primarily rural, predominately white farming community of around 23,000. Since then, the population has grown more than tenfold and diversified. We use Census Bureau data to examine the growth of Howard's largest minority groups.

Central Maryland Youth Ballet

443-472-7772, centralmarylandyouthballet.com

The Dance Dimension

301-490-0252, thedancedimension.com

Genesis Arts

443-750-1332, genesisarts.net

Kinetics Dance Theatre

410-480-1686, kineticsdance.org

Misako Ballet Studio

410-884-9690, misakodance.com

Patuxent Youth Ballet

410-992-4084, marylandballet.com

Studio Dans

301-498-3267, studiodans.com

That’s Dancing Ballroom & Dancesport Center

301-776-0085, thatsdancingballroom.com