Festival History

Jo Ryman Scott, Fairbanks, and Edward Madden, Boston, founded the Festival in April 1980 with the one-week Jazz Festival '80. It was funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (proposal written by Theodore DeCorso, Professor of Music, UAF; Jean Mackin and Jo Scott) and a Guarantorship from the Kiwanis Club of Fairbanks.

After that Festival, classical musicians asked to be included. In 1981, Scott and Madden successfully produced Jazz to Classics, the first two-week summer Festival.

In 1982, the name was changed to the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival because dance, opera, theatre, musical theatre and visual arts enthusiasts asked that those areas of study be added. Since that time, many disciplines have been added to the Festival, based on requests from registrants.

The Festival had been a dream of Jo's since about 1958 — her inspiration being Mary Hale of Anchorage who had founded a Festival there in the late 1950s. Jo established the Festival's nonprofit corporation in 1979 when she was 50 years old.

The original purpose of the Festival was to provide study opportunities for local people who gave their time to be in performing arts groups. Now that the Festival is becoming recognized nationally, people from literally all over the world are coming as registrants or attendees to Festival events.

In August of 2009, Jo retired at age 80 after successfully producing thirty seasons of the Festival. Over the years, hundreds of volunteers have contributed their time to help her produce the Festival, and Jo's husband, Dick Scott, provided office space and equipment. Terese Kaptur was selected as director by the Festival Board to continue the work of the Festival beginning in September of 2009.

The Festival continues to evolve as the needs of the community change, but will always strive to foster collaboration in the arts and provide the opportunities for instruction, artistic expression, and relationship forging that have touched the lives of thousands throughout its history.

Thank you to our sponsors!