Southeast Missouri State University student publication

River Campus Summer Arts Festival brings art to the community

Friday, June 23, 2017

Southeast Missouri State University’s River Campus received a significant turnout for the fourth annual Summer Arts Festival Saturday, June 17.

The festival lasted from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and included activities in art, music, dance, theater, live entertainment and more. Admission and activities were free and everything was open to the public. Throughout the day, participants could make their way through the Cultural Arts Center, the Dobbins Center, the Seminary Building and the outdoor tents for a day of fun and food.

Photo by Micaela Griffin

Highlights included free performances of “Dear Edwina Jr.” in the Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall, mask making in the costume shop, live entertainment from local music groups and magicians, dance lessons from local studios, a photo booth, bounce houses, a petting zoo from Lazy L Safari, adoptable puppies from the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri and writing workshops with Southeast faculty.

Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Director of the Holland School of Visual and Performing Arts Rhonda Weller-Stilson said the event is always a hit with the community.

“It’s a really busy event but there’s something for everyone today,” Weller-Stilson said. “Everything is free and open to the public.”

The Summer Arts Festival is part of a larger series of events for the River Campus’s summer season. There are three summer stock shows going on, including “Greater Tuna,” “Dear Edwina Jr.” and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” These are considered professional performances that feature actors of all backgrounds and ages.

Additionally, students involved in the River Campus’s summer intensives had the chance to display their newfound skills in singing, dancing, music, theater and art. Camps have been going on throughout June and will continue into the following weeks for kids and teens interested in the arts.

Production director and Chair of the Conservatory of Theatre and Dance Kenn Stilson said the festival is unique to the Cape Girardeau area and is a great opportunity to provide exposure and culture to the public.

“[The Summer Arts Festival] makes our community a better place to live,” he said. “It improves the overall quality of life in this region where there’s not an overall abundance of the arts.”

The crowds gathered at the River Campus could be seen partaking in the festivities throughout the day in all areas of the festival. Since the festival’s beginning in 2014, interest has grown exponentially, jumping from an initial interest of 1,000 attendees to more than 3,000 as of last year’s festival.

Holland School of Visual and Performing Arts house manager Nikki Evans said the Summer Arts Festival has garnered a real interest in the River Campus and the area’s arts and entertainment scene.

“Really, everywhere on the whole campus has something going on,” she said. “It’s part of our big-picture summer festival because we have three weeks of summer stock theater going on. I would say there’s something for everybody here.”

The remaining performances of “Greater Tuna” and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” can be seen until June 25 and June 28, respectively. Tickets are $20 for “Greater Tuna” and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” They can be purchased by contacting the River Campus Box Office at (573) 651-2265 or visiting