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Spirit of Columbia evident in changes for Festival of Arts

Columbia is looking back at the same time it is moving forward. What could be more fitting? While a new exhibit at the Columbia Archives documents the birth of the city 50 years ago, the Columbia Festival of the Arts has announced a significant change in the format of the mammoth 16-day summer celebration.

Just as developer Jim Rouse, the visionary behind Columbia, might not have anticipated all the changes coming to his city, the founders of the Festival of the Arts 28 years ago probably never dreamed that the festival would one day reach unwieldy proportions.

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So, it makes perfect sense that the nonprofit rescale the collection of events into four more manageable mini-festivals lasting three days, one in each quarter of the year. The mini-festivals, which will be mounted on weekends, will have themes that will be reflected in the performances and art.

Spearheading the change is Todd Olson, the festival's new executive director. He said the new format will deliver "the same product" in a "different shape."

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Organizers say the new strategic plan grew out of factors that included a drop in ticket sales, a changing demographic among county residents and the difficulty of lining up talent for such a compressed time period. The new format could also open the way for more involvement by local talent, including students, and a greater emphasis on food.

We think this "second act" for the festival has enormous potential and will win applause from Howard County residents.

Columbia itself remains a robust community because it was designed to grow and adapt over the decades. It should come as no surprise, then, that the Columbia Festival of the Arts is also finding a new path to a vibrant future.

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