As Summer Arts 2022 opens, here are 7 Things to Know about this annual Fresno cultural gem

Summer Arts returns!

Fresno’s summers seemed a little lonelier (and even hotter) the past two years because of the enforced Covid break taken by the California State University Summer Arts program.

Pictured above: Benjamin Boone kicks off Summer Arts 2022. Photo: Tamela Ryatt

Culture fans in the area always look forward to the dynamic annual event, which includes a robust festival lineup of concerts, lectures, performances and showcase events. It all begins for the public on Monday, June 27. For a quick introduction, here are 7 Things to Know about this year’s festival.


It’s a boon to feature Boone.

First off, before we even give more background on Summer Arts, we have to lay on the love for the first event: “What If?” (7 p.m. Monday, June 27, John Wright Theatre). It’s headlined by acclaimed jazz recording artist/music professor Benjamin Boone and former national poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera.


Member contest: Win a pair of all-access passes to Summer Arts (deadline 7 p.m. Sunday)

It features two new poems written especially for this occasion by Herrera with new music by Boone. Herrera’s photography and drawings will be featured, as will pre-recorded voices of several community members. Boone has assembled a stellar band including Boone on soprano and alto saxophones; keyboardist Kevin Person, Jr.; drummer Nate Guzman; bassist Philip Sarkisian; percussionist John Martin II; trumpeter Max Hembd; and mandolinist Asher Boone.

“I think this might be one of the most powerful shows I’ve ever put together,” says Boone. “I’m trying things I’ve never tried before, and writing types of music I’ve never conceived of before, all to take the audience on an emotional journey from pondering their own “What if…” to figuring out how they might act upon that. I am super excited!”


This is the 17th cumulative year that Summer Arts has been hosted live at Fresno State.

It was first hosted at CSU Long Beach in 1986 and has also been hosted at other CSU campuses including Monterey, San Luis Obispo and Humboldt.

Fresno State hosted Summer Arts for a monumental 13 years before the program scooted off to CSU Monterey Bay, and the university was reluctant to see it go. A well organized community drive to win back Summer Arts was successful, and it returned in 2017.


Students get to spend quality time with their instructors.

Much like the special student-teacher dynamic I wrote about with the annual FOOSA festival (another way that Fresno State enhances local culture in the summer), Summer Arts is about close, individualistic learning. One instructor that people are particularly excited about is the visual artist Charles Gaines, the noted conceptual artist. In his course “Art > Anthropocene < Action,” students will use multiple materials and techniques to explore the human relationships we have with the physical and social world and create art that examines the human impact on social and environmental ecosystems.

Many of the 40 or so guest artists live in the dorms and have meals in the cafeteria alongside the students, so outside of class they are able to interact throughout the day and into the

Guest artists will be traveling to Fresno from as far as Belgium and Canada. Along with Boone and Herrera, returning artists include Urban Bush Women, Bossy Flyer, Juan Felipe Herrera, Yannick Jacquet, Hollywood Swashbuckling, Capitol Quartet and Afro-Caribbean Jazz artists: John Santos, Ernesto Mazar Kindelán, Erick Peralta, Carlos Caro, Brian Andres, Miguelito Martinez and Jamie Dubberly.


Some quick picks (from experience).

The opening-night performance for each session is a big deal. Along with Boone and Herrera’s Monday gig, another headliner is the always popular Urban Bush Women (7 p.m. Monday, July 11).

A “projection mapping lecture” (7 p.m. Wednesday, June 29) might sound a little too technical for folks. But I became a fan after seeing Yannick Jacquet, a projection mapping artist and founding member of the Antivj visual label, at 2017 Summer Arts. Here’s a video teaser:

Mark Arax and Armen Bacon are two distinguished names on the Fresno literary scene, and they’re teaching a Summer Arts course titled “Writing from Life: Creative Ways to Tell Your Stories.” For their public lecture (7 p.m. Wednesday, July 20), Bacon will read from her newest work, “Daring to Breathe.”

Bossy Flyer: This acrobatic comedy group won the 2018 San Diego Fringe Outstanding Physical Arts Comedy award. For its public performance, (7 p.m. Tuesday, July 5) the group will stage a piece titled “Three” – based on Jean Paul Sarte’s existential masterpiece “No Exit.”


There’s a “Bridgerton” connection.

Yes, that “Bridgerton.” Oliver Goldstick is currently co-executive producer of the Netflix show. Goldstick has multiple other credits as producer and/or showrunner of programs such as “Pretty Little Liars,” “Ugly Betty,” “Desperate Housewives,” and “Coach.” He’ll give a television writing discussion/lecture at 4:15 p.m. Sunday, July 3. ​


Don’t forget the free student showcases.

Here’s where you get to see the creative fruit of all this labor. Mark these dates:

• Contemporary Dance, Classical Saxophone and Video Projections will be Friday, July 8.

• Art>Anthropocene<Action, Creature Workshop, Writing for Television, and Immersive Theatre & Social Justice will be Saturday, July 9.

• Dance & Identity, and Creating Digital Worlds will be Friday, July 22.

•  Off the Wall, Master Painting, Writing from Life, Hollywood Swashbuckling, and Afro-Caribbean Jazz will be Saturday, July 23.


Summer Arts needs your support.

One of the things that has always served Fresno State well in its bids for Summer Arts is the strong level of community support and involvement. Part of that is financial support (which is always welcome), but a big chunk of it is about enthusiastic audiences. If you like the idea of Summer Arts – I know it always makes me happy to think of all that creativity roiling through Fresno State’s otherwise sleepy summer campus – then think about getting out to at least an event or two. It really does make a difference.

About venues and tickets

All performances will be on campus at Fresno State in the John Wright Theatre, Concert Hall (in the Music Building) and the Phebe Conley Art Gallery and Lecture Hall in the Conley Art Building.

Tickets are available online at and at the Summer Arts box office located in the Speech Arts Building near the John Wright and Woods theaters.

Box office hours are Monday – Saturday, 12 – 5 p.m. (closed on July 4).

Tickets ordered on line should be printed or loaded to your phone by the purchaser at the time of purchase and brought to the venue for redemption. They may also be held at will call.

Tickets are $20 for music and dance performances ($15 for students, seniors and Fresno State faculty and staff), and $10 for lectures, films and readings (free for students, seniors and Fresno State faculty and staff). There is a $3.48 ticketing fee per order.

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Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

Comments (4)

  • Jackie Ryle

    Oh my gosh – thank you, Donald. I have always loved Summer Arts and this overall description with dates and times is SO helpful. I certainly plan to attend this Monday, and now I have future events and dates on my calendar. This is a unique opportunity for all of us to view and benefit from the experience of outstanding professionals, as well as students both local and out of area. This looks like it’s shaping up to be the best collection of a wide variety of art yet.
    If this can qualify for eligibility to win the ticket, please consider it thusly. I really want and plan to attend all the events, and in addition to being able to thoroughly enjoy every offering, each acts as a motivation to get me to the easel. Thank you again for keeping us up to date on the wonderful offerings in the art world in Fresno and the surrounding area and Valley

  • Janet Baker

    This is such an amazing opportunity. It would be amazing to win tickets.

  • Shirley Bruegman

    I have my tickets and am excited about being back on campus. The Summer Arts events (open to the community) are one of Fresno’s best kept secrets.

  • Celeste DeMonte

    Thank you for sharing your enthusiasm for this spectacular and treasured program, Donald! It is fantastic to have CSU SA back LIVE again, and the Fresno community is so fortunate to have it here. The local support and admiration was evident last evening for the incredible opening night. So looking forward to more of the amazing festival offerings.


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