OPUS Merriweather: a bright idea is back

An image of the OPUS Merriweather events at the Chrysalis stage last year known as “The Dream Machine.” This year, OPUS Weather takes place Oct. 13.
An image of the OPUS Merriweather events at the Chrysalis stage last year known as “The Dream Machine.” This year, OPUS Weather takes place Oct. 13. (Courtesy Photo/Wild Dogs International)

When OPUS Merriweather took place in Symphony Woods and Merriweather Post Pavilion in 2017, this avant-garde combination of interactive art installations, video projections, dance and live music attracted 15,000 visitors. The crowds doubtless will be back when it returns on Saturday, Oct. 13, from 5- 11 p.m.

Besides providing a literally illuminating night in the woods, OPUS Merriweather is a free event designed to call attention to the evolving Merriweather District.


“For the Howard Hughes Corp., this is taking the essence of Columbia and moving it towards the 21st century," said Vanessa Rodriguez, director of marketing at the Howard Hughes Corp. “We really want Columbia to be seen as a city located between two major metropolitan areas. OPUS is an extension of that.”

She added that the Howard Hughes Corp., which is overseeing much of the ongoing downtown development, is building on the legacy of Columbia founder James Rouse. The increasing density of the urban core translates to more housing, offices, arts-oriented facilities, restaurants and retail in an unincorporated city that now has over 100,000 residents.

In the Enchanted Forest, a light display at the 2017 Opus festival in Columbia.
In the Enchanted Forest, a light display at the 2017 Opus festival in Columbia. (Courtesy photo)

Rodriguez explained that planning for the inaugural OPUS Merriweather was prompted by the success of the numerous cultural events held in conjunction with the celebration of Columbia’s 50th birthday.

Overseeing this event in 2017 and again this year has been Ken Farmer, the creative director for OPUS Merriweather. Farmer is the founder and creative director of the New York City-based Wild Dogs International, an organization for which unusual art events are the norm.

“I think it’s a multi-sensory experience driven by the site, which is a convergence of the forest, Merriweather Post Pavilion and the Chrysalis,” Farmer said. “We have the benefit of 50 acres.”

He observed that visitors are encouraged to wander through the grounds, making happy discoveries along the way.

“It’s not a linear experience, but there is instead the joy of exploring,” Farmer said.

There is a lot to explore, because Farmer has lined up an assortment of artists, musicians, filmmakers, dancers and other creative types from around the world.

Among the many performers is violinist Sudan Archives, who combines American and African music that is played both on violin strings and through digital looping.

Also combining various musical styles is vocalist Kadhja Bonet, whose songs reflect everything from classical to soul. It seems apt that Bonet played all of the instruments on an album released this year.

Composer Patrick Higgins and choreographer Monica Mirabile explore the interaction between the human body and digital life in a piece called “Dossier X” that involves having dancers move within a laser installation by Matthew Schreiber.

Maren Hassinger’s “Pink Light” is an illuminated canopy installed in what amounts to a gateway to the woods, meaning that thousands of visitors will find themselves turning pink as they arrive.

Alejandro Almanza’s kinetic installation titled “Ahead and beyond of everyone's time, space and rhythm” includes imagery of both a formal dinner party and a dance party.

Jazz vocalist Sophia Brous is doing a commission titled “Glossa” that was developed as part of this Australian vocalist being a Merriweather District Artist-in-Residence. The piece involves Maryland choirs and individual vocalists.


Ann Lislegaard's 3-D animation “Oracles, Owls ... Some Animals Never Sleep” has a projected owl up in the treetops that is speaking in tongues.

Photographer Marilyn Minter’s has a film titled “Green Pink Caviar” that visually develops ideas about abstraction.

Oneohtrix Point Never has a piece called “MYRIAD” that is a sonic exploration. Its composer, Daniel Lopatin, previously has collaborated with the likes of Iggy Pop and David Byrne.

Percussionist Eli Keszler will be performing next to an installation in which piano wire also produces sound.

Debbie Attias’ “Dancorcism” promises to be an invigorating combination of dancing and meditation on the lawn of the Merriweather Post Pavilion.

And there will be much more to discover. Perhaps that also will be the case in the years ahead.

“We would love to have it be an annual event,” the Howard Hughes Corp.’s Vanessa Rodriguez said.

OPUS Merriweather is a free event on Saturday, Oct. 13 from 5 - 11 p.m. in Symphony Woods and Merriweather Post Pavilion in downtown Columbia. For info, go to opusmerriweather.com

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