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PBS Arts Summer Festival premieres June 29

The PBS Arts Summer Festival expands the scope and diversity of the arts on television with a multi-part, weekly series and new, original online content that take viewers across the country and around the world. Award-winning television, film and stage star Anna Deavere Smith ("Nurse Jackie," "The West Wing") will serve as weekly host for the festival.

The Summer Arts Festival lineup – part of PBS’ ongoing commitment to arts content on air and online – features films that celebrate the contributions of independent filmmakers, including a behind-the-scenes profile of actor/playwright John Leguizamo, a film that chronicles a year in the life of talented teenage Mariachi musicians, a look at priceless museum collections and a concert documentary profiling a world-renowned mezzo-soprano. 

The festival explores international arts, including a historic concert by four Cuban music greats and an exploration of Islamic art narrated by acclaimed actress Susan Sarandon.

"In the last broadcast season, more than a quarter of all U.S. households tuned into our PBS arts programming, including millions who connected to the arts through the PBS Arts Fall Festival," PBS President Paula Kerger said. "The Summer Arts Festival is an extension of our year-round commitment to arts programming, which viewers can enjoy every Friday night on PBS."

The PBS Arts Summer Festival takes viewers on an exploration of nearly 20 cities around the globe, offering an in-depth look at music, theater, art, architecture and cultural history from some of the world’s most unique locations. In addition, PBS stations will be able to insert local content highlighting the arts scene in their markets.

The PBS Arts Summer Festival, airing on Friday nights at 9, includes:

  • "Mariachi High," June 29. This special spends a year in the life of the champion mariachi ensemble at Zapata High School as they compete and perform with astonishing musical virtuosity. Airing at 6:30 p.m. will be "AETN Presents: On the Front Row With The Smittle Band."
  • "Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World," July 6. Narrated by award-winning actress Susan Sarandon, this film takes viewers to nine countries and through 1,400 years of cultural history to explore the astonishing artistic and architectural riches of this ancient religion. Airing at 6:30 p.m. will be "AETN Presents: On the Front Row With the Boondogs."
  • "John Leguizamo's Tales From a Ghetto Klown," July 13. This profile of actor/playwright John Leguizamo looks at his unorthodox rise to success, while capturing his struggles to mount his latest one-man Broadway show and giving viewers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at one of the industry’s most versatile actors. Airing at 6:30 p.m. will be "AETN Presents: On the Front Row With Pam Tillis."
  • "Homecoming: The Kansas City Symphony Presents Joyce Didonato," July 20. Architect Moshe Safdie’s extraordinary new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City provides the backdrop for this performance-documentary profiling Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, the young musicians of the Kansas City Symphony, and artistic director and conductor Michael Stern. Airing at 6:30 p.m. will be "AETN Presents: Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys."
  • "Havana, Havana!," July 27. This music-documentary vibrates with the soul and energy of African-Cuban drummers, guajira guitarists, and the pulsing melodies of celebrated Cuban musician Raul Paz as he brings together fellow musical stars Descemer Bueno, Kelvis Ochoa and David Torrens to give their first concert together for the Cuban people. Airing at 6:30 p.m. will be "AETN Presents: On the Front Row With Go Fast."
  • "The Barnes Collection," Aug. 3. For the first time, public viewers will get an exclusive look at Dr. Albert Barnes’ collection –thousands of magnificent works of art by some of the most famous names in art history, such as Picasso, Cezanne, Renoir and Matisse – and the new museum that now houses it.
  • "Tanglewood 75th Anniversary Celebration," Aug. 10. Located in the beautiful Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts, Tanglewood hosts one of the world's most beloved music festivals and serves as the summer home for the famed Boston Symphony Orchestra.

PBS Arts online includes content created specifically for PBS.org/arts, designed to complement the broadcast programs and to draw viewers with new original content. The acclaimed "Off Book" series of short documentaries covers art outside the mainstream and is currently in its second season.

"AETN Presents" features a variety of arts and cultural subjects and encompasses the series "On the Same Page" and "On the Front Row." Previously included in the series have been performances by the Cate Brothers, Trout Fishing in America, 3 Penny Acre, Dale Hawkins, The Claudia Burson Trio, The Salty Dogs and Epiphany; and authors Buzz Bissinger, Wells Tower, Billy Collins, John T. Edge and Kenneth L. Smith.

More information on AETN Arts Fridays and the PBS Summer Arts Festival, including previews, are available at aetn.org./artsfridays and pressroom.pbs.org/. More information about "AETN Presents" is available at www.aetn.org/aetnpresents.

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