CSU Summer Arts was created in 1985 during an arts faculty institute in the woods of Kirkwood, California. The CSU faculty and administrators sought a way to meet the needs of the arts students of the CSU and supplement the programs of the CSU’s large and diverse Arts Colleges.
In its first incarnation, Summer Arts was a summer dance program housed on the campus of CSU Long Beach in 1985. Because of overwhelming student needs, in 1986 Summer Arts expanded its curriculum to include various arts genres, and in 1990, the Media Arts Festival.
The program was housed on the campus of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1986 and 1987. The program then moved to the campus of Humboldt State University, where it remained from 1988 through 1995 before moving to CSU Long Beach for the 1996 through 1998 seasons. In 1999, Summer Arts relocated to the campus of CSU Fresno through the 2011 season. The program was hosted by CSU Monterey Bay for the 2012 through 2016 seasons, and is currently hosted again by Fresno State.