What is Columbia Festival of the Arts?

The Columbia Festival of the Arts is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit. Founded in 1987, the Festival’s popularity and growth has transformed it into one of the Baltimore/Washington Corridor’s premiere arts events. The Festival presents both free and ticketed events, featuring world-class performances, exhibitions, The Columbia Film Festival, The Columbia Arts Channel, concerts, family activities, master classes, workshops and community dialogues. Columbia Festival of the Arts brings together the arts community, businesses, local schools, and individuals to create events that shine a spotlight, not only on the arts, but on the Howard County community as a Maryland showplace.

The mission of the Columbia Festival of the Arts is to present a world class celebration of the arts and entertainment that attracts, engages and inspires the broad and diverse community it serves.

The Columbia Festival The Arts is created and produced on the traditional lands of the Piscataway, Nentego and the Susquehannock, in the land we call home, Maryland. We hope that from wherever you are – you take a moment to acknowledge and honor the native people whose lands you are on, and the history of the place you are in. Find out more about Native Land near you: https:// native-land.ca/


The Birth of CFA

Columbia, Maryland, turned 20 in 1987, and many of the town’s pioneers wanted to throw a birthday party that would not only celebrate the anniversary but would also reassert the town’s distinctive identity. The mission was to “present programs of the highest artistic quality that feature distinguished nationally known artists” and to produce an “annual arts event that builds the spirit of community.” Thus, the Columbia Festival, Inc. was founded.

The 10-Day Extravaganza

By 1990, the Columbia festival of the Arts had expanded to a two-weekend, 10-day extravaganza. The three “pillars” of the event were violinist Itzhak Perlman with the BSO, the art-song duo of William Bolcom & Joan Morris, and the Pilobolus Dance Theatre. Free performances continued at the Columbia lakefront.

20th Anniversary

Celebrating its 20th anniversary against the backdrop of Columbia’s 40th birthday, the Festival presented a very special black tie event in May, An Evening with John Waters. Many notable artists from past Festival’s were presented including Wynton Marsalis, MOMIX and The Second City.

The Festival Goes Virtual

Helping to Keep Arts Alive, Columbia Film Festival Goes Completely Virtual. Converting over 60 films onto an online platform, adding a series of virtual film making workshops, audience Q&A’s, a screenplay reading, plus an Emmy nominated web series. Horizon Foundations’ Mental Health Film Festival has joined with a series of inspirational films and guest speakers, including actress/writer/advocate Rain Pryor, daughter of the late legendary comic Richard Pryor.

New Direction, New Leadership

Robert Neal Marshall, filmmaker and Executive Director of the Columbia Film Festival, takes the helm as the new Managing Director and Dave Simmons assumes the role of Director of Programming.


35th Anniversary - Better Than Ever

Building on its 35 year history, Columbia Festival of the Arts returns post-pandemic with a grand Summer Festival incorporating the traditional LakeFest, vibrant spectacle entertainment and the 5th Annual Columbia Film Festival!