Opportunities to enjoy and explore the arts abound in Columbia and Maury County, with a year-round cultural calendar that includes everything from juried artisan craft fairs to classical music performances. The area is home to a sophisticated population that not only appreciates creative expression, but also encourages it throughout the community.
Arts immersion starts young at the Mt. Pleasant Middle School for the Visual and Performing Arts, where students build self-confidence and develop their creative skills through a curriculum that integrates the arts with academics. The school is supported by a public-private partnership called the Kids on Stage Foundation.
Teens and adults can find creative self-expression through the Maury County Arts Guild, which for more than 35 years has offered community theater, art exhibition opportunities, and classes in photography, drawing and painting.
Visiting artists can show their works at the well-regarded Pryor Art Gallery at Columbia State Community College, which hosts artists in a variety of media, from painting and photography to sculpture and pottery.
The cultural highlight of the year is Sunset Symphony, an annual outdoor dinner and musical performance held on the grounds of one of Maury County’s stunning antebellum homes each summer. Sunset Symphony is a fundraiser for the Columbia Breakfast Rotary Club, which uses the $14,000 to $18,000 generated by the event each year to support service projects that include building park shelters, financing a clean water project in Honduras and providing academic scholarships for high school seniors.
An average of 700 people each summer enjoy a sit-down gourmet dinner, featuring such dishes as tenderloin and pecan-crusted chicken.
But there's nothing stuffy about Sunset Symphony. Prizes are awarded for the most elaborate and outrageously decorated tables, and the outdoor nature of the event encourages attendees to dress for summer.
The music part of the event is free and open to the public. Each year, some 2,000 people bring their own picnics and enjoy music, including performances by the Maury County Community Band and a professional symphony.
The repertoire ranges from classical to pops, and the crowd goes wild when the orchestra launches into a modern classic such as "Freebird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd.