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Ruslan performs during the Blended Arts Festival at the concert hall on Feb. 16, 2018. (Ramuel Reyes/The Collegian)

Many arts blended together to bring first-of-its-kind festival

Fresno State brought various disciplines of art to life at the first Blended Arts Festival last Friday.

Jose ElaGarza, a performing arts technician at Fresno State, formed the idea for the Blended Arts Festival because he wanted to create an event that provided different types of artists a way to collaborate and interact with each other.

“My biggest push is to create an atmosphere for the students to feel comfortable in networking and expressing their art with other artists,” ElaGarza said. “I would like to see more art generated within the school and within our community.”

The event began with a guest speaker series. First up was Liz Waldman, a Fresno State professor in the theater department.

Waldman’s talk,“Women in Arts: Focusing on an Independent Career Path,” detailed her career as a lighting and sound designer. Waldman has worked in the theater and music industries. She has worked for numerous musicians, including the bands Paramore and New Found Glory.

In her talk, Waldman also discussed the difficulties she faced being a woman while working in a male-dominated industry.

“I’m proud to have forged my way in a man’s world,” Waldman said. “I’m proud that I get to do what I love every day.”

Waldman was followed by speaker Max Debbas, a Fresno State graduate and founder of Cocoa Crate, a company that offers various chocolate products.

Debbas’ talk, “Create in Your Work Space: Finding Art in Work and Life,” centered on how people can incorporate art in their careers.

Debbas said founding Cocoa Crate has allowed him to utilize his talents.

“[Cocoa Crate] gives me the opportunity to be creative in a lot of aspects,” Debbas said. “I do product development. I also design the packaging. I get to do the photography.”

The guest speaker series culminated with hip-hop artist Ruslan. Ruslan’s talk, titled “Creative Process & Entrepreneurship,” centered on his career, including how he paid all of his debt and established himself as a musician.

Ruslan said he liked that the Blended Arts Festival provided him with an opportunity to interact with others.

“Whenever I get the opportunity to speak and do workshops, it’s super cool,” Ruslan said. “Oftentimes, you can be put in a box as just an artist, and I think I have more to say and more to offer.”

David White, a Fresno State student majoring in music, said he liked that the guest speaker series featured a variety of perspectives.

“They’re bringing people who are not just in the industry, but also behind the scenes,” White said.

The guest speaker series was followed by an evening concert series. It began with a live audiobook collaboration project featuring Tara Williams’ short story, “World Cry.” Williams is a Fresno State graduate student in the creative writing program. Her story was read by Anthony P. Radford, a Fresno State associate professor in the music department.

After the live reading, Ruslan performed with artist Jon Keith. Then, Christian rap artist and Fresno State graduate PQ performed. PQ incorporates his Christian faith into the lyrics of his music.

“Christianity means the fact that knowing that I’m an imperfect person. I mess up daily. [I] know that the God that I believe in is still going to be there for me,” PQ said.

The concert series came to an end with a performance from the Fresno State jazztet.

“By putting a festival together with different types of artists and educators and performers, it gives people confidence in their art,” Debbas said.