Public Affairs

Curtains Up for Final CSU Summer Arts Season in Fresno

June 27, 2011
By Erik Fallis

Actors of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company during their culminating CSU Summer Arts performance.
Actors of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company during their culminating CSU Summer Arts performance.

This past Sunday, June 26, saw the curtains rise on the first week of public CSU Summer Arts performances and events for 2011. A concert by the Alexander String Quartet officially launched an intense season of arts that will last through July 22.

When the CSU Summer Arts program came to Fresno in 1999, the plan was to stay at a campus for no more than three years and then move on.  Fresno State is now in its 13th and, for now, final season as the host of the statewide celebration of art and learning.

Fernandez demonstrates her swordplay skills at CSU Summer Arts 2010CSU Summer Arts has developed deep links to the campus and community, both inspiring and drawing inspiration from Fresno.  Plays have been written in honor of the city.  Photographs and paintings featured some of the campus and community's most striking features.  And there were even glorious battles fought with pool noodles in campus fields. 

Audio: Fresno State alumna Rhiannon Fernandez describes her CSU Summer Arts experience including the Sword and Forcery class

During the past dozen years, Fresno State often became part of the art it hosted.  Last year, the talented actors of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company chose to utilize various points of the campus residence halls in their culminating CSU Summer Arts performance.  Previously, the company excerpted scenes from the writings of Fresno native son William Saroyan – converting them into live performances.

Acting is just one form of artistic expression that incorporates the campus and community.  A Joe Goode culmination brought more than two hundred people to various locations on campus to witness intricate choreography highlighting the various spaces.

The years at Fresno State also saw the evolution of computer aided graphics and animation that revolutionized certain techniques taught at CSU Summer Arts.  Within the realm of 3D Animation, students have a chance to learn from Andrew Gordon, an award-winning animator from Pixar Studios.  Gordon has a deep personal tie to the program as an alumnus of CSU Summer Arts.

Fresno State and CSU Summer Arts grew together, and last year both celebrated historic milestones: 100 years for Fresno State and 25 years for CSU Summer Arts.  It is appropriate that both the campus and program had a chance to reflect on their shared history.

One Final Curtain Call
CSU Summer Arts Director Jim SpaldingThat shared history in many ways involves the vision and personality of the CSU Summer Arts director of more than two decades, Jim Spalding.  As the program moves to CSU Monterey Bay, it will do so without Spalding, who retires at the end this season.  Spalding helped drive the community focus on art that brought the program into Fresno neighborhoods and lead to large audiences attending campus performances.

Spalding's vision even took the statewide program to the world with the addition of workshops in Drawing and Painting and the Art History of Florence that send students to Italy for a truly immersive experience.

Spalding's farewell speech on July 21 will be tinged with all of these elements of shared history and an exciting new chapter of life for the program and its director.  Most of all, his speech will be a chance to say thank you to a campus and community that has been such a wonderful home to CSU Summer Arts.