An Appalachian Summer Festival

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An Appalachian Summer Festival, inaugurated in 1984 on the campus of Appalachian State University, has emerged as one of the nation's most highly regarded regional, multidisciplinary arts festivals. Through innovative programming, offered at affordable ticket prices, the festival brings some of the world's finest creative and performing artists to the North Carolina High Country every June and July, contributing significantly to the cultural landscape of the region. Quality arts programming, set against the backdrop of the High Country's spectacular mountain setting, combine to make the festival an appealing summer travel destination for arts lovers across the nation.

Music, Dance, Theatre, Film and Visual Arts

From its earliest days, An Appalachian Summer Festival has embraced a wide variety of artistic programming. "We knew we were envisioning a festival of some nature, encompassing dance, music, theatre and visual arts," says Robert Snead, who served as Vice Chancellor for Development when talks of a unified summer arts outreach program began in the early 1980s.

Building on the foundation of existing summer music programs, the festival took shape. A strong classical music component formed the basis for programming during the festival's early years. Dance and theatre programs were soon added as part of the festival schedule. Visual arts elements were also incorporated, including a partnership with the Rosen Outdoor Sculpture Competition & Exhibition. Workshops and exhibitions were added, and with the opening of theTurchin Center for the Visual Arts in 2002, the festival's visual arts component was greatly expanded. In 2008, the festival announced its first film presentation - Patagonia's Wild & Scenic Film Festival.

Artistic Leadership

Based on the significant growth and development of its diverse artistic menu, the festival adopted a new model of artistic direction in 2008. A team of strategic artistic partners was formed to guide various elements of festival programming across the many disciplines.

Denise Ringler, Director of Arts & Cultural Programs at Appalachian State University, says of this model, "An Appalachian Summer Festival is proud to have formed partnerships with some of the nation's most prominent and accomplished artists. Working in collaboration with the festival staff, Artistic Partners set the vision for programming, advise the festival on specific artists and programs, and share valuable industry contacts that assist in booking festival artists each season."

Adds Bob Snead, Chair of the Festival's Advisory Board, "We're excited about the team model, because it emphasizes collaboration, teamwork, and synergy among a group of artistic partners, each of whom are selected to bring to the table their vision, expertise, and unique perspective, shaped by their respective artistic disciplines."

A True Community Event

Although born on a university campus, An Appalachian Summer Festival was always envisioned as a community event. "Central to the festival's mission is the belief that access to a strong and dynamic program of artistic excellence in the performing and visual arts is an important component of a vital and healthy community," says Denise Ringler.

The festival's ability to attract internationally renowned performers, typically associated only with large metropolitan areas, has changed the face of the High Country during the summer season. Fred Robinette, former University Advancement staff member, observes, "The festival has changed our community by ... enabling so many to attend its world-class events - those who otherwise would not have had the opportunity." In addition, he has also witnessed the positive changes that the community has had on the university. "The festival has brought community members from all walks of life onto campus who otherwise would not have necessarily made that contact, and whose involvement has truly enhanced the university, making it a better place."

Ringler notes that over the years, the festival has reached out to the local community by expanding its programming and inviting representatives of the community to serve in leadership positions on its Advisory Board. In this way, the festival has become "grounded" in the local community, and now enjoys broad-based support and a sense of investment among all facets of the local community, as well as an exciting sense of synergy between campus and community.

Keeping Ticket Prices Affordable

Festival organizers recognize the need to keep ticket prices affordable, based on the festival's commitment to accessibility for all members of the community. Through the generosity of the festival's benefactors, along with the support of local and regional sponsors, world-class artistic talent is available to the people of the region at affordable prices.

"Generous private support from our donors and sponsors makes it possible for the festival to offer tickets at prices 30-40% lower than those of comparable venues," notes Ringler, "while maintaining the high standards of artistic excellence for which the festival is known."