The Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival’s mission is to awaken everyone’s inner artist, connecting world-class professionals to aspiring artists, and giving people who are enthusiastic about the fine arts an outlet to pursue their passions.
Nearly 10,000 people come together at the Festival every July to study, perform and engage their spirit in an empowering way. Offering 200 workshops and over 100 events every season, our multidisciplinary, study-performance Festival offers opportunities for both personal growth and arts appreciation in a variety of genres including music, dance, visual arts, healing arts, culinary arts, creative writing, and theatre.
The Festival was founded in April of 1980 by Jo Ryman Scott and Edward Madden, originally as the one-week Jazz Festival ’80, and was funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (proposal written by Scott, Theodore DeCorso, and Jean Mackin) and a guarantorship from the Kiwanis Club of Fairbanks. In response to requests from classical musicians interested in participating in the Festival, Scott and Madden went on to produce the two-week Jazz to Classics in August of 1981 - the first ever summer arts festival to be held in Interior Alaska. In 1982, other fine art genres began to be incorporated, including dance, theatre and visual arts, and the name was officially changed to Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. Since then, the Festival has expanded to even more disciplines based on requests from registrants.
The Festival had been a dream of Jo’s since the 1950’s, when Mary Hale founded the Anchorage Festival of Music. The original purpose of the Festival was to provide study opportunities, at minimal cost, to local people who gave their time to be in performing arts groups in the Fairbanks area. Today, the Festival is recognized nationally, attracting artists from across the globe to the Interior.
In 2009, Jo retired at the age of 80 after producing 30 seasons of the Festival and was succeeded by Terese Kaptur as the Executive Director. Terese served the organization for 8 seasons before passing the baton to James Menaker in 2017.
Over the years, hundreds of volunteers have contributed their time and energy to help produce the Festival making it, truly, a community effort. The Festival continues to evolve as the needs of the community change and will always strive to foster collaboration in the arts, providing opportunities for relationship instruction and artistic expression.
Jo Ryman Scott, Founder and Director EmeritaTerese Kaptur, EmeritaEdward Madden, Co-founder and EmeritusJean Mackin, EmeritusTheresa Reed, EmeritusRichard (Dick) Scott, EmeritusDave Stephenson, Emeritus
James MenakerExecutive Directordirector@fsaf.org
On August 1, 2017, James Menaker became the Festival’s third Executive Director. James was born and raised in Fairbanks, returning from school in 2000 to invest in his family and community. He has nearly 20 years of nonprofit experience, including the past five years in management. He also holds a Foraker certificate in nonprofit management. He is married with three children and, when not working, stays busy with freelance writing. A published author, James is thrilled to be continuing the Festival’s work empowering people of all skills and abilities to awaken their inner artist.
Melissa has a been a Fairbanks resident for over 15 years. While her current creative outlet is cooking and baking, she played French Horn for nine years, and loves life-long learning. A graduate of Calvin University (B.A. Business) and Wayne State University (M.L.I.S.), Melissa is passionate about equal access to opportunities and building connections through common interests. She has been writing and managing grants at FSAF since 2021.
FSAF is so pleased to welcome Kirsten to the team! Kirsten enjoys a vibrant musical lifestyle as a soloist, performer, private and classroom instructor, chorus director, and is an advocate for opera and musical theatre in Fairbanks. Her role at FSAF is to build awareness of the wide range of creative opportunities at Festival and to introduce Festival to unreached groups in Interior Alaska.
Originally from Michigan, James has been an Alaskan resident since 2004. He attended Albion College where he majored in mathematics and chemistry, the University of Maine, where he studied physical chemistry, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks where he studied music theory. James enjoys playing cello in chamber groups, and singing in choirs. His favorite parts of Festival are meeting new people, forging new relationships, and creating music together with others.
Josh Bennett, Sound & Lighting Designer
Jon Huff, Outreach Production
Meghan Illguth, Production Manager
Kris Capps, Denali Outreach Coordinator
Katie Larson, Graphics
Ray Lin Howard, Graphics
Corlis Taylor, PresidentAshley Carrick, Vice PresidentDoug Lange, SecretaryGlenn Brady, TreasurerCheryl BerrongCathy CurbyPoppy FlotoDon GrayAmanda HuffJanVerné HnilickaJoy McDougallTim Satre
Accordion James Menaker <firstname.lastname@example.org>American Roots Ryan Bowers <email@example.com>Emily Anderson <firstname.lastname@example.org>Celtic Caitlin Warbelow <email@example.com>Simon Traynor <firstname.lastname@example.org>Composing in the Wilderness Stephen Lias <email@example.com>CORVUS Katie Cox <firstname.lastname@example.org>Andie Tanning <email@example.com>Creative Writing Jeanne Clark <firstname.lastname@example.org>Culinary Sean Walklin <email@example.com>Gospel Yvonne McHenry <firstname.lastname@example.org>Debra Pearson <email@example.com>Healing Arts Robin McDougall <firstname.lastname@example.org>Jazz Mark Lockwood <email@example.com>Keith Karns <firstname.lastname@example.org>Christie Burke <email@example.com>Jami Speares <firstname.lastname@example.org>Marimba Peggy Carlson <email@example.com>Cindy Wentworth <firstname.lastname@example.org>Opera Jaunelle Celaire <email@example.com>Theresa Reed <firstname.lastname@example.org>Sing Your Song Cabaret Lorri Heneveld <email@example.com>Steel Pans Marlene McDermott <firstname.lastname@example.org>Evelyn Sfraga <email@example.com>Voice Marsha Knobel <firstname.lastname@example.org>Janice Trumbull <email@example.com>World Music and Dance JanVerné Hnilicka <firstname.lastname@example.org>Lunch Bites Marsha Knobel <email@example.com>
Administrative Offices600 University AvenueFairbanks, AK firstname.lastname@example.org