CSU Voices and Views

Connecting CSU Students to Art

Dr. John Mayer
CSU Summer Arts Coordinator, CSU Stanislaus Theatre Professor

CSU Summer Arts is the best educational arts program I’ve ever been involved with, and my track record proves it, as I’ve been working in the program for the past 14 years. With my PhD in Theatre History and a previous professional career as an actor and director in and around Chicago’s famed theatres – Steppenwolf and Second City – I’ve been exposed to various arts programs throughout my life. But CSU Summer Arts has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my career, both as a CSU professor and Summer Arts Coordinator.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of CSU Summer Arts. With the exception of the program moving from Fresno State to CSU Monterey Bay in 2012, not much has changed since I began working with CSU Summer Arts. The methodology of the program has proven successful year after year; the immersive program construction and the quality of the program’s professional artists continue to bring fresh perspectives in the ever-changing worlds of theatre, writing, design, music, dance, and media arts. Keeping up with current art trends within the intensive course framework is the key to CSU Summer Arts’ ongoing success in providing life-changing experiences to CSU students.

Among the courses I have coordinated at CSU Summer Arts is the Steppenwolf Theatre intensive. As one of the most renowned theatre companies in the world, its Chicago-based ensemble members have won Pulitzers and Tony Awards, as well as moving successfully into careers in film and TV. The uniqueness of the Steppenwolf theatre program is founded on the principle of ensemble, or group performance, directing the focus on the dynamic of the group rather than the desire of becoming an individual star. This puts an emphasis on the students to work in a collaborative environment while enabling them to freely follow their creative impulses, both important skills to carry regardless of their chosen career paths.

As a coordinator for CSU Summer Arts, providing CSU students access to the arts is what drives me. There are a number of students in the CSU system that, sadly, have previously been underexposed to live performance and cultural events; this program has opened their eyes to the beauty of the living, breathing worlds of the various artistic genres. I’m proud to have cultivated strong relationships between students, teachers and guest artists through workshops and plays. The intensity of the CSU Summer Arts program encourages collaboration between CSU students and arts’ professionals. My job is so much more fulfilling as I assist students to develop their artistic identity by exposing them to uncharted areas, enhancing their overall CSU educational experience.

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