8 ways to enjoy the arts outdoors in Howard County

Grab your picnic basket and enjoy live blues music in an Elkridge park. Dig out the easel and paint pictures of flowers and historic storefronts in Ellicott City. Or as the sun sets, learn how to salsa dance under one of downtown Columbia’s most famous sculptures.

Across Howard County, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the arts outdoors this summer, says Coleen West, executive director of the Howard County Arts Council.

“We have opportunities all year round, but in the summer, we have a chance to see work outside of the galleries and concert halls,” West says.

Here are eight ways to bring the cultural arts, fresh air and some sunshine into your summer:

On and around Main Street, Historic Ellicott City
July 11 through July 13
$30 and $10 for juried and non-juried artists, respectively; free for spectators
410-313-2787 | 410-313-1900

Armed with paintbrushes and easels, artists from across the region will participate in the fifth annual Paint It! Ellicott City, an plein air painting event July 11 through July 13 in historic Ellicott City. Artists will paint what they see “en plein air,” or “in the open air,” using everything from oil and acrylic to pastel and watercolor paints. In the past, paintings have included Main Street shops and the B&O; Railroad Museum’s Ellicott City station. Artists can participate in either the juried or non-judged portion of the event, West says. “These paint-outs are spectator sports, too,” she says. “You get to watch the artists at work, ask them questions about their art. It’s a great community engagement.”

Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park
3655 Church Road, Ellicott City
June 13 to July 20. Thursday through Saturday shows are at 8 p.m. Sunday shows are at 6 p.m. July 4 show is at 5 p.m. Gates open 90 minutes before showtimes. Adult tickets range from $29 to $38. Student tickets for ages 19 to 25 are $15 and available on Thursdays and Fridays. Children under 18 are free

All the world’s a stage during the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s outdoor production of “As You Like It” at the Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park in Ellicott City. The company uses the institute’s ruins as a backdrop for the William Shakespeare comedy. “It’s a great summer event created with families in mind,” says Ian Gallanar, the company’s founding artistic director. “From the moment you enter the gates, you’ll know you’re in for something special.” Many guests bring picnics to the event, arriving up to 90 minutes before show time, Gallanar says. On Fridays, the company hosts conversations before the play about its history, themes or even special effects. Sundays are “Family Friendly Days,” where children can play outdoor games, dress up in costumes and get their faces painted. About 200 folding chairs are onsite for audience members. The company also has a “blanket zone” at the foot of the stage, as well as a few cafe and picnic tables for rent. Guests enjoy free parking at the Howard County Courthouse. Shuttles transport guests up to the performance.

Downtown Columbia Lakefront, off Little Patuxent Parkway and Wincopin Circle
Opening weekend: June 13 through 15;
festival runs through June 28
Cost: Free for opening weekend events

With strolling performers, intricate chalk drawings on asphalt and artists inside giant, illuminated globes hovering over downtown Columbia, the Columbia Festival of the Arts packs offerings of free, outdoor art into its opening weekend June 13 through 15. “You can get as hands-on as you’d like to be or as laid-back as you’d like to be,” says Nichole Hickey, the festival’s executive director. “It’s a broad variety.” While many festival favorites, including the Chalk-It-Up contest and the Center Ring Circus School Juggle Zone will return this year, new artists such as Australia’s Strange Fruit performance group are sure to draw attention, Hickey says. The group will be performing “Spheres,” a show where four artists are suspended above the crowd on 14-foot poles and then emerge from lighted globes. “They will be flying against the night sky,” Hickey says.

#4 ARTsites
12 sites throughout Howard County
Sculptures remain in place through July 2015
Cost: Free

A trip to the library, community center or even the office can take a surprising artistic turn this summer. As part of ARTsites 2014, the Howard County Arts Council has installed sculptures outside of 12 buildings, ranging from the East Columbia Branch of the Howard County Library System to the North Laurel Community Center. “It’s a way to take art outside of gallery walls and place them in the community,” West says. “Our goal is to activate and enliven community spaces.” The sculptures are made from metal, stone, glass and even wood.

People Tree at the Downtown Columbia Lakefront, off Little Patuxent Parkway and Wincopin Circle
6:30 to 8 p.m., Fridays from June through September
Cost: Free

Dance the night away every Friday under the People Tree sculpture in downtown Columbia. As part of its Lakefront Summer Festival, Columbia Association offers free lessons in everything from line dancing to salsa dancing. Instructor Tatia Zach, who began teaching dance on the lakefront in 1998, welcomes beginners, as well as those with dancing experience.

Lakefront Summer Festival Movies

Downtown Columbia Lakefront, off Little Patuxent Parkway and Wincopin Circle
Mondays and Fridays at dusk through September
Cost: Free

The Wine Bin Movies
8390 Main Street, Ellicott City
Saturdays at 9 p.m. from June through August; Saturdays at 8 p.m. in September
Cost: Free

As part of its Lakefront Summer Festival, the Columbia Association hosts a series of free movies throughout the summer at the Downtown Columbia Lakefront. On Mondays, movies are rated G or PG. On Fridays, they are rated PG or PG-13. This is the Columbia Association’s 43rd year offering free movies, says Patti Henkel, the association’s administrative assistant for community services. Movies this summer include everything from “The Monuments Men,” starring George Clooney and Matt Damon, to “Frozen,” the blockbuster hit from Disney. “Get here early, or the hill is full,” Henkel advises. “And bring a blanket to sit on.” All movies begin at dusk.

In Ellicott City, The Wine Bin also hosts free outdoor movies on Saturdays throughout the summer. Movies range from PG to R ratings and include “Dirty Dancing,” “Grease,” “Life of Pi” and “Princess Bride.” All movies are projected onto the side of The Wine Bin’s building. The parking lot closes an hour before showtime to prepare. Popcorn and bottled water are available for a donation. The Wine Bin also offers a free wine tasting before all movies. Owner Dave Carney recommends guests bring a chair, blanket or even a picnic with them.

There are several ways to enjoy outdoor music in Howard County this summer. The Columbia Association hosts a series of concerts as part of its Lakefront Summer Festival in downtown Columbia. Howard County’s Department of Recreation and Parks hosts Sunset Serenades on Wednesday evenings at Centennial Park in Ellicott City. The department also runs the Traveling Bands summer concert series at locations throughout the county. Blankets, lawn chairs and picnics are welcome. The Shrine of Saint Anthony in Ellicott City hosts Friar Fest, an outdoor concert featuring national Christian recording artist Marie Miller. And don’t forget about Merriweather Post Pavilion, named one of the best amphitheaters in America by “Rolling Stone.” Merriweather has its own rules regarding food and lawn chairs. Be sure to call or check the website before you go.

Lakefront Summer Festival Concerts
Downtown Columbia Lakefront, off Little Patuxent Parkway and Wincopin Circle
Concerts take place from June through September. Sunday concerts begin at 6:30 p.m. All other concerts are from 8 to 10 p.m.
Cost: Free

Merriweather Post Pavilion
10475 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia
Concert season runs through September
Cost: Varies depending on performer

Sunset Serenades
Centennial Park South,
10000 Route 108, Ellicott City
Wednesdays at 7 p.m. from
June 25 through August 13
Cost: Free

Friar Fest
The Shrine of Saint Anthony,
12290 Folly Quarter Road, Ellicott City
June 11 from 4 to 9 p.m.
Cost: TBD

Traveling Bands

June 27, July 11, July 25, August 1, August 5 and August 15 at 7 p.m.
Cost: Free

Locations vary and include East Columbia Library in Columbia, Gary J. Arthur Community Center in Cooksville, Schooley Mill Park in Highland, Patapsco Female Institute Park in Ellicott City, North Laurel Park in Laurel and Rockburn Branch Park in Elkridge.

10520 Old Frederick Road, Woodstock
July 12 at 10 a.m.
Cost: Free
Email sue.phipps@hcconservancy.org to register by 3 p.m. on July 11.

Become your own outdoor architect at the Howard County Conservancy’s “Building Woodland Fairy Houses” event. Children ages 10 and under use twigs, nuts, pine cones and leaves to build everything from fairy country homes to villages in the Howard County Conservancy’s woodlands and stream edges. Children can bring their natural construction materials from home or use materials provided by the conservancy. Staff members will photograph the final masterpieces and then add the images to a memory book in the conservancy classroom.

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