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Festival of the Arts returns, inviting community onto the Sac State campus for weeklong showcase of arts and humanities

Sacramento State's Festival of the Arts, the College of Arts and Letters' signature showcase, culminates in the family-friendly Sunday Funday, an on-campus event featuring hands-on activities, games and performances. (Sacramento State file/Andrea Price)

Sacramento State’s annual weeklong showcase of arts, culture and community is back, and organizers are emphasizing the diverse array of offerings and perspectives available for the public to enjoy.

Festival of the Arts, the College of Arts and Letters’ signature program, takes place on campus April 16-21 and will highlight the work of students and faculty as well as artists and scholars from around the world.

Though diversity has always been a festival highlight, Dean of Arts and Letters Sheree Meyer said she was impressed by how this year’s lineup reflects arts and humanities’ ability to shine a light on and tackle global challenges.

“We’re really addressing the issues confronting us in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion,” she said.

The festival includes events from each of the college’s departments: from Art, a guest lecture from an expert on the Indigenous art of Australia; from Design, a workshop from a multidisciplinary artist whose work gives visibility to immigrant narratives; from History, a documentary about LGBTQ+ rights in post-revolutionary Cuba; and from Philosophy, a symposium on bioethics and disability.

The week culminates with Sunday Funday, a full day of on-campus, family-friendly programming including games, performances, activities, food and, “rumor has it,” Meyer said with a look of resignation and a laugh, a "dunk the dean” tank.

Beyond being an integral part of the college and University’s work to engage the community, she said that the event is an important way to show potential students that Sac State can be a place for them.

“We’re really thinking of Sunday Funday as, in addition to something where we invite the community, a new student outreach event,” Meyer said. “We want to bring everybody from the second-grader who is not thinking of college yet to the 11th-grader who now has to make some decisions. What does Sac State offer?”

Several Sunday Funday traditions will return, including a puppet show from the Department of Theatre and Dance; the Sacramento Dance Sampler, which features regional dancers performing existing pieces and works in progress; and the Japan Day celebration of Japanese language and culture, including a taiko drumming performance and hands-on activities such as origami and calligraphy.

Meyer said she was excited that this year’s lineup, in a nod to the increasing diversity of Festival of the Arts, also includes presentations from several of the college’s other world language programs, including Spanish, French and Italian.

Sunday Funday will also include “Music Under the Dome,” what the School of Music hopes becomes a regular series of concerts performed inside the Sacramento State Planetarium.

The week’s other primary public event – though nearly all of the festival is free and open to the public – is U-Create, which highlights student and faculty collaborative projects and will take place on campus on April 18. Free parking will be available for both U-Create and Sunday Funday.

“We’re really thinking of Sunday Funday as, in addition to something where we invite the community, a new student outreach event. We want to bring everybody from the second-grader who is not thinking of college yet to the 11th-grader who now has to make some decisions. What does Sac State offer?” -- Sheree Meyer, dean of Arts and Letters

Festival of the Arts also coincides with several other events hosted by Sac State, including multiple music recitals, the regional round of the National History Day competition, and the annual Give Sac State Day fundraising drive.

Students have always been integral to the festival, including as performers and collaborators with faculty, and new this year is utilization of the college’s recently hired team of Arts and Letters Ambassadors in the planning process.

By helping organize the event, Meyer said, the students gain the kind of professional skills that are critical to any arts career but not always prioritized in the curriculum.

Jasjeet Kaur, a second-year student double majoring in English and Asian Studies, has helped plan Sunday Funday, organizing the lineup, managing the budget and coordinating logistics.

A student orientation leader last summer, Kaur applied to be an Arts and Letter Ambassador this year so she could continue supporting and advocating for her fellow students. Planning Sunday Funday, she said, has been stressful but worthwhile.

In addition to getting first-hand experience in how much goes into organizing an event of this scale, she said she is also “learning how to talk to people, learning how to get things done that you need to get done. Learning how to communicate with faculty as a student (and) how to be able to advocate for yourself and the students around you.”

She hopes that, in addition to the community, her fellow students from the college and across campus show up for Sunday Funday.

“A lot of my time at this position has been rebranding the College of Arts and Letters as the fun college, and we are,” Kaur said. “We are a school that’s big on athletics, so I want (people) to know that we are capable of hosting that same kind of fun as well.”

For more details about Festival of the Arts and a schedule of events, visit the College of Arts and Letters website.

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About Jonathan Morales

Jonathan Morales joined the Sac State communications team in 2017 as a writer and editor. He previously worked at San Francisco State University and as a newspaper reporter and editor. He enjoys local beer, Bay Area sports teams, and spending time outdoors with his family and dog.

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