By Joan Weiner

To get involved:
• Schedule, registration and scholarship information are available at www.csusummerarts.org. More than 70 percent of students receive scholarships.
• In mid-May, the schedule of public performances will be available online. Tickets can be ordered online or by phone starting June 1. Call 831-582-3499.

Sword fights, improvisational comedy, animation, hip-hop: Summer school was never this much fun.

Several hundred students from throughout the California State University system and beyond will come to CSU Monterey Bay in July for the annual CSU Summer Arts program. High school and community college students and faculty, as well as local residents are also welcome to enroll in the 15 classes that will be offered.

“Summer Arts will benefit students and the local community by providing them with opportunities to study with premier artists from around the world,” said Professor Renee Curry, who led the effort to relocate the 28-year-old program to CSUMB.

“Bringing Summer Arts to campus clearly announces to our tri-county area that we have come of age as a provider of significant arts education to students and as a provider of extraordinary performances to the community.”

According to Joanne Sharp, assistant director of CSU Summer Arts, more than 35 public events will be held, including lectures, readings, concerts and theatrical productions.

In other words, the area’s summer arts scene has gotten a lot more interesting.

Summer Arts will be based at CSU Monterey Bay for at least five years. The university beat out Fresno State, which housed the program for more than a decade, San Francisco State and Chico State to be the host campus.

“We were selected because our facilities are multi-purpose and we were open to a wide variety of art forms,” Dr. Curry said. “And we have great support from local arts organizations.”

Students are immersed in rigorous training, 12 to 14 hours a day, every day during the two-week sessions. They earn three units of academic credit for each course. Master teachers and guest artists teach the classes. Each offers a public performance or culmination at the end of the session.

Dr. Umi Vaughan is one of those teachers. An assistant professor of Africana Studies at CSUMB, he will teach an Afro-Brazilian rhythm workshop. The course will bring together two of Brazil’s most famous musical organizations – Manguiera and Ile Aiye – for the first time ever. Dr. Vaughan said he expects the class to be “a game-changer for anyone interested in performing Brazilian music. “
Stage combat is another one of the classes being offered. It gives participants an opportunity to channel their inner swashbuckler while learning to perform exciting, historically accurate and safe stage sword fights.

Preparing classrooms, assigning residence halls, working with course coordinators, arranging for meals and reaching out to community arts organizations are some of the ongoing activities to get CSUMB ready for Summer Arts. The budget is $1.7 million, Sharp said, a welcome addition to the local economy. That doesn’t include money spent by the 250 to 400 students and instructors who are expected to attend.