Statement on Merriweather Roof Collapse

Early in the morning of Saturday, January 13, 2018 the Merriweather Post Pavilion roof collapsed. The roof was in the midst of a weeks-long process of being raised as part of the renovation project at the amphitheater. There were no injuries. 

Until a complete investigation has been completed, the precise cause of this accident cannot be known. That investigation is commencing as soon as possible, and in the meantime, the team at Merriweather will begin assessing next steps for the project. 

While this development is unexpected and distressing, the board of directors and staff of the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission are grateful that no one was injured in this incident and are committed to doing everything in our power to ensure Merriweather Post Pavilion can be safely and successfully rebuilt as soon as possible. We wish to assure everyone that we are as committed as ever to Merriweather and its future.  

Merriweather, the arts, remain at the core of Columbia's future

Before the new city of Columbia had any residents, it had an artist-in-residence.

Gail Holliday's iconic work in the early days of Columbia defined the blossoming community, helping craft its identity and make it immediately recognizable to new and potential residents. The playful scenes depicted with bright colors in her posters brought Columbia's neighborhoods to life and these works continue to hold a cherished place in the hearts of residents.

They were also part of a larger effort by Columbia visionary James Rouse to build a city — a physical place — and a community — a cultural identity — at the same time.

The arts were critical to Rouse's success in this effort, and he knew it.

In addition to hiring Holliday and giving her wide latitude, Rouse chose to make Merriweather Post Pavilion one of Columbia's first buildings. Located in the center of the city's downtown, Merriweather was designed to attract new residents from Washington, D.C., and Baltimore by showcasing world-class performing arts, and over the last 50 years, it has done that and more, becoming one of the most acclaimed music venues in the country.

The arts, like Merriweather, flourished in this new city, strengthening the bonds of community and the values that continue guide Columbia's maturation and support the growth of its diverse residents.

When a new master plan for Downtown Columbia was enacted in 2010, it envisioned a bright future for the heart of this city and, drawing inspiration from the original Columbia plan, included arts as a central and critical component of its future.

Reflecting Rouse's belief that art should be part of our daily lives and incorporated into our public spaces, the new Downtown Columbia plan requires public art as part of each new development project.

The "Petal Play" flower sculptures outside of the Metropolitan apartment building in Downtown are fun examples of what's to come. These sculptures capture some of the whimsical notes of Holliday's original Columbia posters and enhance our experience of the work and streetscape through interactivity.

The vision for arts in downtown is coming to life in other ways, too.

At the end of 2016, ownership of Merriweather Post Pavilion, in the midst of its first major renovation, transferred from the Howard Hughes Corp. to the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission, a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing and expanding artistic, cultural and civic programming throughout Downtown Columbia.

Under the commission's ownership, Merriweather will continue to host world-class performers but it will also begin to host new community programming that is affordable, diverse and reflective of the values upon which Columbia was founded. Already, the commission has presented a series of movie nights at the venue, bringing families and visitors to the cherished amphitheater. The commission is developing plans to expand programming in 2018 and beyond.

Just across Merriweather's fence line, a new stage has taken shape — the Chrysalis. Symphony Woods has long been a beloved park in the heart of Columbia's downtown, and with the addition of the Chrysalis and other planned amenities, its use as a performance and gathering space that complements Merriweather will continue to grow.

Toby's Dinner Theatre is also on the cusp of an amazing transformation. It will soon house a full arts complex, including multiple theaters, a gallery, classrooms and studio space.

In all, Symphony Woods, Merriweather Post Pavilion and the new Toby's arts center will provide a critical mass of spaces in which the arts can thrive.

While these physical improvements are well on their way toward completion, the challenge ahead for the organizations involved in these projects is to bring the spaces to life in new and exciting ways. This will require hard work, collaboration and strong support from the community.

The commission recognizes the important role it plays in promoting arts and helping nurture the bonds of our community, long described as a "garden for growing people." By putting the arts at the center of Columbia's original plan and the new plan for Downtown Columbia, we have shown where our values lie. Now we must ensure we carry these values forward throughout the years and decades ahead.

Just as it was 50 years ago, a dynamic and exciting vision exists for Columbia's future, offering this community an opportunity to build on the success of its founding and fulfilling the original promise of a "complete" city for generations to come.

This piece originally appeared in the Columbia Flier on July 13, 2017. The original piece can be seen here.

Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission announces Merriweather Movie Nights

As it has for nearly 50 years, Merriweather Post Pavilion will be home to this summer’s hottest concerts. And for the first time, it will also be home to a series of classic summer movies!

The Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission today announced its first season of Merriweather Movie Nights. Utilizing the amphitheater’s high-definition video screens and featuring food and beverage choices from Manor Hill Brewing and Tavern, Merriweather Movie Nights will offer guests an outdoor movie experience unlike any other. 

“We are excited to open Merriweather to our community for these music-themed movie nights, which are sure to offer something for everyone,” said Ian Kennedy, Executive Director of the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission (DCACC). “As the owners of this cherished amphitheater, we are excited to introduce new community-focused programming at Merriweather, and these movie nights are just the beginning.”

Like summer itself, the series kicks off on Memorial Day Weekend with the classic musical Grease on Saturday, May 27th, and follows thereafter with The Last Waltz in June, Moana in July, and School of Rock in August. Guests will have the choice of free, general admission seating under the stars on the lawn or within certain sections of the pavilion, or for $10, they can purchase a reserved pavilion seat in a prime viewing area with access to the venue’s new party deck. Tickets, free or paid, are required for attendees and can be obtained starting Friday, April 28 at 10 a.m. at www.merriweathermusic.com/community-events/ or www.dcacc.info/mppmovies

But it’s not just the venue that will make this series special. Manor Hill Brewing and Tavern will be on-hand each night with a diverse selection of locally-crafted food and beer available for purchase. 

“People have come to expect great things from Manor Hill and Merriweather, so the pairing is a natural fit,” said Randy Marriner of Manor Hill Brewing and Tavern. “We can’t wait to help redefine the “dinner and a movie” experience in Howard County this summer.”

In addition to Manor Hill, the Merriweather Movie Nights are possible because of the generous support of its sponsors—Costello Construction of Maryland, Howard Bank, the Columbia Association, the Howard County Economic Development Authority, and the Creig Northrop Team of Long & Foster Real Estate.

“We want to be able to offer programming at Merriweather that is open and accessible to everyone at low or no-cost to residents, and that’s only possible because of the great community partners who have offered to support these movie nights,” said Kennedy.

The schedule of movies, including times and links to more information, is:

Saturday, May 27, Grease:  Join Sandy, Danny, and the rest of the Pink Ladies and T-Birds for this classic movie musical of summer romances, school days at Rydell High School, and everything in between. Singing and dancing encouraged. Doors 5:30 pm; showtime 7:30 pm. Tickets and information.

Wednesday, June 28, The Last Waltz: "This film should be played loud!" Thus begins Martin Scorsese’s seminal documentary about the star-studded final performance of The Band. With songs that changed rock-and-roll forever and cinematography that did the same for movie, The Last Waltz maintains its perch as the defining rock documentary even today, forty years after its release. Doors 5:30 pm; showtime 7:30 pm. Tickets and information.

 Wednesday, July 26, Moana: Follow Moana on her action-packed voyage across the sea as she tries to save her village and fulfill the quest of her ancestors. With songs from Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, Moana is an all-ages crowd pleaser not to be missed.  Doors 5:30 pm; showtime 7:30 pm. Tickets and information.

Wednesday, August 30, School of Rock: School’s almost back in session, so what better way to cap-off summer than with this film about a down-on-his-luck musician who teaches a group of prep school students about the ways of rock-and-roll. Full of laughs and classic rock songs, School of Rock is great fun for fans of music and comedy. Doors 5:30 pm; showtime 7:30 pm. Tickets and information.

information about Merriweather Movie Nights is available at www.dcacc.info/mppmovies or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/columbiamdarts

Merriweather Post Pavilion Ownership Transferred to DCACC

On December 1, 2016 at Merriweather Post Pavilion, the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission accepted a ceremonial key to this venue signifying that the transfer of ownership from the Howard Hughes Corporation to the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission is complete. 

The Downtown Columbia Plan of 2010 envisioned our organization as a key supporter of expanded artistic, cultural, civic, and educational programming at Merriweather and throughout Downtown. The Commission’s ownership of this venue unlocks that potential.

Next year, Columbia and Merriweather will celebrate their 50th birthdays, and we look forward to playing a supporting role in these community-wide celebrations. 

Those celebrations, like Wednesday's, are times for reaffirming our commitment to the principles that Columbia aspires to and the partnerships that bring them to life. 

We are ready to celebrate, and we are also ready to begin work on Columbia’s next chapter and ensure this city and its residents continue to thrive for decades to come.