It’s time to stop it with “There’s nothing to do in Columbia.”

If there’s one thing that slaps me in the face every time I sit down to assemble Free Times’ annual Comprehensive Calendar of the Arts, it’s the fact that there’s a lot to do in this town.

If you want art, there’s big-time exhibitions at the Columbia Museum of Art and South Carolina State Museum, adventurous modern fare at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art, or the diverse array of works flitting through smaller galleries like if ART or Frame of Mind.

If you want music, you can hit up a big-time touring band at the increasingly impressively programmed Colonial Life Arena or Township Auditorium, or you can catch a rock show at The Senate, or you can swing by an annual festival like the Jam Room Music Festival or Hip-Hop Family Day, or you can take in the South Carolina Philharmonic or the various diverse classical, jazz and more on offer at the University of South Carolina.

There’s opera and film screenings, multiple ballet companies and other dance programming. There’s talks from authors and a variety of comedians performing pretty much every week. There’s a Columbia Children’s Theatre and a Columbia Marionette Theatre and other things you can take the kids to when they get restless.

Like I said, it’s a lot.

This magazine, a look forward at all the many things you can do in Columbia this cultural season, should help you keep up. Schedules will change, of course, so keep an eye on Free Times’ events listings and arts and entertainment coverage for venue and date changes and all the new events that will inevitably crop up.

Now go out and do something. — Jordan Lawrence

Key Performance Venues

701 Center for Contemporary Art |701 Whaley St., 803-779-4571,, Opened in the fall of 2008, the 701 Center for Contemporary Art has established itself as the go-to local space for cutting-edge, contemporary art.

Colonial Life Arena | 801 Lincoln St. at Greene St., Opened in 2002, the 18,000-seat Colonial Life Arena is the largest arena in South Carolina, hosting major concert and entertainment acts and serving as the home for USC men’s and women’s basketball.

Columbia Music Festival Association | 914 Pulaski St., 803-771-6303, Founded in 1897 as an arm of local government, CMFA is an umbrella organization offering rehearsal and performance space at its ArtSpace in the Vista and support services to a wide variety of local arts groups.

Columbia Museum of Art | 1515 Main St., 803-799-2810, In addition to its impressive permanent collection and changing exhibitions, the museum is one of the city’s premiere event spaces — and will look to further solidify that status once it completes its ongoing renovations. Prominent happenings include the quarterly Arts & Draughts and the Chamber on Main concert series.

Cottingham Theater | Located on the Columbia College campus in North Columbia, this 375-seat auditorium presents theater and dance performances.

Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County | 810 Lyttleton St., Camden, 803-425-7676, Presents community-oriented theater, music, dance and exhibitions, as well as the annual Carolina Downhome Blues Festival.

Harbison Theatre | 7300 College St., Irmo, 803-407-5003, The 400-seat Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College presents a high-quality and eclectic array of performing arts events that diversify Midlands Tech’s offerings and strengthen its relationship with the local community. Also serves as a rental facility for local arts organizations.

Koger Center | 1051 Greene St., The Koger Center is operated by USC and has served as Columbia’s primary facility for the performing arts since 1989. Seats just over 2,000.

Newberry Opera House | 1201 McKibben St., Newberry, 803-276-6264, Originally built in 1881, the 409-seat Newberry Opera House was named Outstanding Theater by the League of Historic American Theaters in 2008. Presents classical groups, dance ensembles, folk music, beach bands, big bands, bluegrass and more.

Sumter Opera House | 21 North Main St., Sumter, 803-436-2616, First built in the late 19th century and reopened in 1987, the 550-seat Sumter Opera House maintains an active schedule of cultural events, many of which feature Columbia-based artists and writers.

Tapp’s Arts Center | 1644 Main St., With studio spaces and regular exhibitions, the Tapp’s Arts Center is primarily a haven for the visual arts, but it also hosts theatrical performances, film screenings, readings and musical performances.

Township Auditorium | 1703 Taylor St., 803-576-2350, First opened in 1930, the 3,000-plus-seat Township Auditorium has hosted such artists as Elvis Presley, Duke Ellington, Pink Floyd and The Clash. Reopened in 2010 after a $12 million facelift, now hosts everything from rock shows to comedians, gospel plays, pageants and rap acts.

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