A Canvas for the Arts
Renowned artists flock to the community to teach and to engage
by Lisa Maria Boyles • Illustrations by Joel Beery
Pick an art, any art. There’s a good chance it will be taught, performed or shared during two special programs offered this summer to provide community access to some of the world’s most accomplished artists.
The Fresno Opera and Orchestra Summer Academy (FOOSA) auditions young musicians from around the globe to work side by side with professionals and to perform for the community from June 11 to 25. As that winds down, the California State University Summer Arts program offers public performances, readings, lectures and courses in June and July covering various artistic specialties.
Summer Arts Returns to the Valley
Long a staple at Fresno State, Summer Arts is back on the campus for the first time since 2011. More than 400 students and community members are expected to hone their abilities through Summer Arts’ diverse course offering that includes experiential, academic classes in dance, media arts, music, literary arts, theatre, visual arts and design, as well as a month-long public arts festival (see sidebar).
“It isn’t often that students and the general public alike get access to so many world-class artists in one place,” says Rachel Nardo, director of the program. “Summer Arts is a transformative experience for students. The Fresno community, in turn, gets low-cost access to performances, exhibitions and lectures from the visiting guest artists. This program is a truly unique experience that we are honored to bring back to Fresno.”
The 23-campus CSU system has offered Summer Arts since 1985. It was held at Fresno State from 1999 to 2011, briefly moving to CSU Monterey Bay. The event returns to Fresno State this year.
Fresno author and Summer Arts alumna Armen Bacon, the 2015 Fresno State Alumni Association Top Dog Outstanding Alumna, honed her writing skills in Summer Arts courses from 2008 to 2011.
“Summer Arts was the most inspiring, imaginative, intense two weeks of my life, taking me from aspiring writer status to published author. The opportunities to grow, stretch, risk and triumph are endless, bold and life-changing,” says Bacon, who is on the Summer Arts community board.
Musicians Converge for Two-Week Festival
FOOSA enters its fifth season on the Fresno State campus. Musicians nationwide, as well as some international students, audition to be part of the intensive 100-student program in which they work with professionals to improve their musical talent and to enhance performance skills.
“FOOSA brings together internationally and locally significant teaching artists, Fresno State music students and young musicians from throughout the Central Valley in a uniquely fertile confluence of teaching, learning and performance intended to increase the Valley’s international cultural footprint,” says Dr. Thomas Loewenheim, FOOSA artistic director.
Arts critic Donald Munro calls FOOSA one of the “hidden cultural gems available in the central San Joaquin Valley.” The two-week festival culminates with an opportunity for the student musicians to perform at the 2,265-seat Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, one of the most acoustically sophisticated concert halls in the world.
This year’s FOOSA faculty will include renowned violinist Felix Olschofka of the University of North Texas and cellist Lynn Harrell, a two-time Grammy winner for Best Chamber Music Performance.
— Lisa Maria Boyles is a communications specialist for the College of Arts and Humanities at Fresno State.
Public Events Schedule
(events are at 7 p.m. at John Wright Theatre at Fresno State unless otherwise noted)