Multi-sensory festival OPUS 1 brings art to Merriweather Park

On Oct. 7, Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods will burst with colors, music, images, technology and more with the premiere of OPUS 1, a multi-sensory festival that organizers believe will cement Columbia’s place in the art world.

“Opus takes art, sound, technology and performance in a different way and brings it to the future,” said Vanessa Rodriguez, director of marketing for Howard Hughes Corp., presenters of the festival. “Opus is hard to put in a category. It is so different and ground-breaking.”

Featuring more than 100 artists, the event will take place on four different stages: an inflatable air pavilion known as the Lighting Cloud; the stage of the Chrysalis; Merriweather Post Pavilion’s stage; and the grounds of Merriweather. Throughout the festival, these areas will host 11 different activation or “installation” areas, Rodriguez said, that will engage one’s senses in a variety of ways.

“You will see art while listening to beautiful music,” Rodriguez said. “You can be part of the art by immersing and engaging in events.”

The festival will open at 4 p.m. with a performance by George Mason University’s Pep Band. Performers including Hibridos Live, Sophia Brous, Lonnie Holley and Gang Gang Dance will offer everything from a Brazilian ritual dance and jazz, to a sculpture workshop and experimental music.

Wild Dogs International, a New York City-based art production and design company, is the curator and producer of the event.

Rodriguez is excited about the Mutual Wave Machine, an interactive neurofeedback installation that will use brain waves to create art, she said.

“You will put on a headset and … use it to project and create art,” Rodriguez said. “You will see how and if you are on the same wave length. It is pretty interactive.”

Another installation will have participants use paper masks to cover their eyes to allow the “color and light to come to you,” Rodriguez said.

“It will be a color immersion,” she said.

“I think it is going to be a great community event,” said Nina Basu, president and CEO of the Inner Arbor Trust, the nonprofit in charge of developing Symphony Woods.

“I love the fact that it is really cutting-edge art,” Basu said. “It is a great opportunity for downtown Columbia.”

While the festival is free, tickets are required. Rodriguez recommends getting tickets in advance, although there will tickets available at the entrance.

Rodriguez said as of Oct. 2, 16,000 tickets had been reserved.

The only costs will be at the culinary village set in the middle of the festival grounds. Eight different food trucks will sell food and drinks throughout the day.

Security will be heightened during the event, with “a presence” felt in such areas as the perimeter and in the parking lots, Rodriguez said.

“We are taking every precaution so this is a great experience for all festival goers,” Rodriguez said. “People will feel safe.”

The show will go on rain or shine, she said.

“We are not expecting to cancel. The show must go on,” she said.

Planning for the festival began early this year, Rodriguez said, with the intention for it to be part of a three-year-project.

“For year two and year three, we plan to make it bigger and better,” Rodriguez said. “This is an investment Howard Hughes has made. We believe art is a big part of new development.”

“The vision of Columbia was to be a regional arts center and the park is a piece of that,” Basu said. “We have really started to get those high-quality art experiences in downtown Columbia.”

The Opus 1 Festival is Saturday, Oct. 7, from 4 to 11 p.m., at Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods, 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy., Columbia. For tickets, go to

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