Photo above by Todd Sharp: Lauren Lavin reads her poem during the Hybrid Poetics and Narratives Student Showcase.

~ By Lisa Maria Boyles, communications specialist for the College of Arts and Humanities

Summer Arts is sparking a fire at Fresno State. The month-long festival is transforming more than 400 students from Fresno and beyond.

Summer Arts‘ intensive two-week sessions culminate in student showcases, where students can share the results of their study with community audiences.

Students in the “Hybrid Poetics and Narratives” class, taught by Sacramento State professor Doug Rice, presented their work in an afternoon reading and reception on July 7 in the John Wright Theatre.

The student readings covered many different topics. Erian Pamintuan spoke of “the biggest regret of my life” – watching Alzheimer’s steal his grandfather before he could see him grow to become a man.  Caitlin Howery spoke from the perspective of a tampon – “When that time of the month comes, who’s really there for you?” Lauren Lavin raged about injustices inflicted upon victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the Radium Girls and others.

Local author Armen Bacon is a Summer Arts alum returning for more, a student in the Hybrid Poetics class – her fifth Summer Arts class with Rice. She is also on the Summer Arts Community Board (as well as the advisory board for the College of Arts and Humanities).

“Each year I leave saying, ‘This was life-changing. I’m not the same person I was two weeks ago.'” Bacon said. “Doug sets the bar high, pushes us beyond our own self-imposed boundaries, believes in our work, and creates an environment of trust and creativity. He was the one responsible for encouraging me to ‘write the story that I was dying to tell – the one I was passionate about.’ “Griefland” (my first book) was conceived in Summer Arts.”

Because the class was large (36 students), half of the students presented at the student showcase for the public. The other half presented the night before, at an improvised open mic on the lawn by the dorms, said Samina Najmi, an English professor at Fresno State and a returning Summer Arts student.

Like Bacon, Najmi also returned to learn more with Rice. She previously attended a creative writing course taught by him during Summer Arts’ last session in Fresno, in 2011.

“Doug Rice had everything to do with my desire to take this course, and this was true for many Summer Arts students who came back after six years,” Najmi said. “His aesthetic vision coheres with his moral vision and his sociopolitical outlook. It’s all one, the aesthetic and ethic of ‘seeing,’ which has transformed the way I approach the arts, including my own writing.”

Fresno’s Poet Laureate Bryan Medina also took the Hybrid Poetics class. His first Summer Arts course was 17 years ago with former U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera.

As a student in Summer Arts, you’re constantly bombarded with new ideas that push writers to expand not only their work, per se, but the human behind it,” Medina said. “I would have to say that one of the most significant components, for me, is the one-on-one contact and real time critiques with the guest artists, which encourage stepping out from the boundaries of the page and to letting life’s experiences not only inform the things I create, but live through them, in order to be visible and heard.

Bacon said Summer Arts is a “true gift to our community.”

“My brain is still on fire from all the new ideas,” she said “We learned about the art of book making, created narratives blending poetics and prose, experimented with the integration of images and texts … As exhausted as I am – I didn’t want it to end. Summer Arts is truly a writer’s paradise.”

That’s exactly the kind of fire that Rice wants to ignite. In a blog post he wrote: “You are not coming to Summer Arts to be a ‘student’; rather, you are coming to live the practice of making art, of taking risks, of surrounding yourselves with other young artists who share your passion.”

At the student showcase, Rice told the audience, “I asked the impossible of my students and in two weeks, they transformed the impossible into the possible.”

Medina encouraged other fellow writers to push the boundaries of what their writing can be through Summer Arts:

“Don’t miss this chance of a life time. From the course coordinators, to the guest artists and Summer Arts’s staff – students are in for a mind-blowing experience on how to write freely, with purpose, honesty, and outside the bounds of what they thought writing is. And he connections made with other writers in the program is invaluable for possible future collaborations and or submission of work opportunities.

If you missed the first round of Student Showcases, you can still catch the rest of them. The Student Showcases for the second session of Summer Arts courses will take place on Friday and Saturday, July 21 and 22.

Friday, July 21:

  • “Sexuality and Love in Creative Writing,” 2:15 p.m., Concert Hall
  • “Urban Bush Women Dance,” 4 p.m., John Wright Theatre
  • “Musical Theatre: Actor, Music and Lyrics,” 7:30 p.m., Concert Hall
  • “Video Projection Mapping in 3D Space,” 9 p.m., South Gym, Room 109

Saturday, July 22:

  • “Animating a Short Film with Nimble Collective,” 11 a.m., John Wright Theatre
  • “Acting for the Camera: The Reel Experience,” 2:15 p.m., John Wright Theatre
  • “Visual Storytelling: The Art and Craft of the Graphic Novel” and “Printmaking and Installation: Out of the Matrix,” 3:45 p.m., Phebe Conley Art Gallery
  • “Drum Talk,” 7:30 p.m., Concert Hall

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