The Columbia Festival of the Arts’ ‘Viva La Vida’ Opens This Friday, 4/8-24th

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The Columbia Festival of the Arts has changed its format from an early summer (or very late spring) one month format to a quarterly themed one.

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This year’s Spring Festival – Viva La Vidaopens this Friday.

It opens with the Academy Award winning film, Frida, starring Salma Hayek on Friday, April 8th from 7-9:30 pm at Howard Community College.

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On Saturday, April 9th from 7-8:30 pm, there is another cinematic treat at the Roger Carter Community Center, Lecture: Cuba’s Cinematic Revolution by Dr. Eyda M. Merediz, which will be a journey of Cuba from the mid-20th Century, including the revolution.

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The next weekend there is a change of pace.  It begins on Friday, April 15th from 7-9:30 PM with Salsa Night with Eileen Torres at Historic Oakland which includes a lecture, food and, of course, dance.

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Saturday afternoon is a Free Family Fiesta at Wilde Lake High School that From 3:20-4:20 PM. It includes food, artists, vendors, dance lessons and more.

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The highlight of the Festival will be Saturday night April 16, 2016  f rom 6-9:15 PM with Dos Por Uno which present the award-winning Latin band, Cafeteras, and the Grammy Award-winning band La Santa Cecilia. Tickets include the two shows at the Rouse Theatre and food at intermission.

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On Sunday, April 17th at 4 PM and 7 PM,  there will be two performances Mark Edwards, Classical Spanish Guitar at Oliver’s Carriage House.

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The last weekend begins with a lecture on Friday, April 22nd at 7:00 -8:30 PM at Slayton House (It’s Pay-What-You-Can) with Associate Professor Ryan Long,’s Post-Revolutionary Mexico.

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At Howard Community College on Saturday don’t forget the 2nd Annual Maryland Student Film Festival in cooperation with Howard County Public Schools on Saturday, April 23rd from 3:00-6 PM.

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It’s Pay-What-You-Can,  followed by the film East Side Sushi, winner of 12 film festival awards.

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The last day, April 24th, is Poetry and Paella: Spanish Poems and Aperitivos at Oliver’s Carriage House an evening of Spanish language poetry and food from Chile to Cuba.

I got a chance to chat with Todd Olson, Executive Director, and get some more detailed information on Vida La Vida and the Columbia Festival of the Arts on Monday, April 5, 2016.

Susan: Why did you choose a Latin theme for the Spring?

Todd: Latinos are a growing demographic in Howard County, and for an arts group like ours to remain vital it must accurately reflect the people who live here. Moreover, there has always been a cultural curiosity in the community here, so I know touching on international cultures here will go well.

You are doing two programs on Frida Kahlo. Why did you decide to focus on her?

I think Frida had a lot to say about Americans and our relationship with Mexico. She and her husband Diego Rivera were also international “stars” of sorts, which I like. Many famous figures crossed paths with her, so she was an interesting person at an interesting crossroads historically and artistically.

You are going to have several events with food.  What kind of foods will be available?

We want to elevate food as an art form here, anyway, but especially with Latin culture, how can you showcase the art without featuring the amazing cuisine too?

Cuba de Ayer will be supplying the food for Dr. Eyda M. Merediz’s lecture on “Cuba’s Cinematic Revolution” Saturday, April 9 from 7:00-8:30pm at the Roger Carter Community Center in Ellicott City. El Azteca will be catering Salsa Night with Eileen Torres, Friday, April 15 from 7:00-9:30 at Historic Oakland. We’ll close our festival with Poetry and Paella: Spanish Poems and Aperitivos, featuring paella by The Grille at Maple Lawn on Sunday, April 24th from 4:00-5:30 at Oliver’s Carriage House.

I see that Whole Foods in a partner is some of the food programs.  How did they get involved?

Whole Foods is our neighbor here and we’re constantly reaching out to each other to try and collaborate on things. This was a great idea that we both embraced. Whole Foods will be doing a food demonstration called “Taste of Latin America” at our Free Family Fiesta on Saturday, April 16 from 3:00-6:00 at Wilde Lake High School. Whole Foods will also be creating a special intermission spread in between the Las Cafeteras and La Santa Cecilia concerts on Saturday, April 16th.

Can you tell us more about the Free Family Fiesta?

The FREE Family Fiesta ….. will be the kind of fun, interactive free afternoon of Latin-inspired music, food, artists, dance lessons, cool vendors, and more! Activities will include cha-cha lessons with Eileen Torres, food demonstrations by Whole Foods, models and kids make-up with manneqART, food with the Jonee Trading Company, piñata making with Jackie Serpico, arts and crafts sales by the Baltimore City Community College’s Refugee Youth Project, information table with Foreign born Information and Referral Network, and the Colombia band, Los Hijo e Plena, who will play and let kids try their hand at their instruments.

If someone can only get to one event, what would you recommend?

Definitely LAS CAFETERAS and LA SANTA CECILIA on Saturday, April 16 at the Jim Rouse Theatre (tickets are $45 which includes both concerts and the intermission food). Las Cafeteras has been called the “Best Latin Alternative Band” by LA Weekly, and La Santa Cecilia recently won the Grammy for “Best Latin Album,” exemplifying the modern-day creative hybrid of Latin culture, rock, and world music.

Can you tell us a little bit more about some of the performers and why you chose them?

We want what is fresh and current (Las Cafeteras and La Santa Cecilia) but also what is historical (the lectures by University of Maryland professors Dr. Eyda M. Merediz and Ryan Long). Theatre and film have always been important to us, so we wanted to showcase Julie Taymor’s amazing Frida. Mark Edwards is very hot right now after winning the recently Howard County Arts Council “Celebration of the Arts” Award…in fact we have sold out his concert and have added a second concert!

Will you continue doing ethnic themes?  If so, which ones are planned for the future?

Our themes will always be broad and wide-ranging. Our upcoming themes are:

Summer 16: June 10-26, 2016 – Theme “SILK ROAD STORIES” including free concerts at Symphony Woods and will also feature the Koresh Dance Company.

Fall 16: September 23-October 9, 2016 – Theme: “WOMEN ARE…”

Winter 17: January 27-February 12, 2017 – Theme: “GLOBAL VILLAGE”

Spring 17: March 31-April 16, 2017 – Theme: “APPRECIATING THE PAST”

Summer 17: June 2-18, 2017 – Theme: “IMAGINING THE FUTURE”

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For Viva La Vida’s schedule and ticket information visit the festival’s website. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling (410) 715-3044.