Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival

Participants gather at the Alaska Salmon Bake for the opening day of the 2016 Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. This year's festival starts Sunday. 

Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival 2021 starts Sunday, providing two weeks filled with 120 workshops and this year, many free concerts.

The 41st annual event takes place July 18-31 at venues throughout the Fairbanks area and includes the popular Lunch Bites at Raven’s Landing, free concerts at the fairgrounds, and a special fundraising dinner to induct former director Terese Kaptur into the Festival’s Hall of Fame.

The festival’s mission is to awaken everyone’s inner artist, connecting world-class professionals with aspiring artists and giving people who are enthusiastic about the fine arts a way to pursue their passions through study and performance.

The 120 workshops are about half of what the festival normally offers, the result of cautious recovery from Covid-19. It is also the result of which guest artists could commit to participating, what venues were available, and how many people in the community were interested participating.

“Half seems about right,” said James Menaker, Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival director.

Those classes include culinary arts, learning new instruments, painting, drawing, jazz, ensemble playing, singing, dancing and more. There is no gospel choir this year and no orchestra.

Registration has been slow and steady but this is the week most attendees are expected to sign up.

“With all the uncertainty out there, we wondered, will we even have a festival,” Menaker said.

The festival decided to open, even though it would likely be a smaller event. Three things had to fall into place, Menaker said. The festival had to know there were people who felt it was safe to participate, instructors who wanted to teach, and venues willing to host. If any of those three factors were missing, that genre was postponed until next year.

“I think the people who are coming and participating are going to have an incredible time,” he said. “The guest artists are super excited to be invited to come up here and to be able to share what they do.”

An estimated 60 guest artists signed up, with 30 of those from outside of Alaska.

Lunch Bites

Then popular Lunch Bites will continue and be held noon to 1 p.m. every Monday through Thursday at Raven Landing Center, 949 McGown St.

“We are going to be the first outside event put on at Raven Landing (since Covid-19 hit),” Menaker said. “We are excited and honored to be there and share a sampler of what each of our visiting guest artists bring. We are eager to hop in and have a good time with that.”

“It is a great space and residents who are there are so welcoming and hospitable,” he added. “They are eager to have us and we are eager to perform.”

Free concerts

Free concerts are scheduled at David Concert Hall, Journey Church, Georgeson Botanical Garden and the UAF Pub. See www.fsaf.org for the schedule.

Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival and the Tanana Valley Fair overlap a few days at the end of the month, so the festival will also hold some free concerts at the fair July 30, July 31 and Aug. 1.

“We happen to coincide and cross over, which never happens,” he said. “We decided it would be a really fun partnership to have a few of our events down at the fairgrounds.”

So steel pans, aerial silks, American Roots, big band, Afro-Cuban concert and world music, and dance concerts will all be held at the fairgrounds. There is no admission fee. See the schedule at www.fsaf.org.

“It’s an open air event,” Menaker said. “This will allow us to share what with do with festival with a large segment of the population.”

In past years, admission fees were charged at most concerts.

“This has been a great year to try new stuff,” Menaker said. The free concerts are a way to give back to the community and also maybe share festival with newcomers for the first time.

“It’s been a little bit of a year for people and we wanted to make festival and a celebration of what we are doing, as open and accessible to the community as we could,” Menaker said.

Hall of Fame

Terese Kaptur, who served as director of the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival for eight years, will be inducted into the festival’s Hall of Fame at 7 p.m. at the Westmark Gold Room on July 29 during the festival’s Summer Gala.

The Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival Jazz faculty, led by Keith Karns and renowned jazz artist Greta Matassa, will perform at the gala. The evening includes a silent auction and a sampling of desserts.

Kaptur was the festival’s second director after founder Jo Scott, who was the first inductee into the Hall of Fame.

“She was a tremendous bridge from Jo Scott and her legacy into helping the festival transition into a modern and professional organization,” Menaker said. “She was responsible for some amazing musical outreaches here in Alaska, which continue today through another organization.

“She loves the arts and she loves music and she loves the festival,” he said. “When you spend any time around her at all, those qualities just shine through.”

This is the one event for which festival will sell tickets. Those tickets are $50 and are available online or at the festival office.

Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at kcapps@newsminer.com. Follow her at twitter.com/FDNMKris.