PBS Arts Summer Festival with Anna Deavere Smith

The PBS Arts Summer Festival, announced Wednesday at the Television Critics Association meeting, expands the scope and diversity of the arts on television, with a multi-part weekly series and new original online content that takes 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 Summer Festival, which begins Friday, June 29, 2012 at 9p.m. ET.

The Summer Arts Festival line-up, 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.

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The Festival explores international arts, including a historic concert by four Cuban music greats and a journey into Islamic art narrated by acclaimed actress Susan Sarandon. Slated to run for seven weeks, an additional program will be announced at a later date.

“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,” said PBS president Paula Kerger.

“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 announcement comes on the heels of a recent independent national survey about public perception of live and televised performing arts programs, conducted by ORC International Online Caravan.

The survey found adults 18+ turned most frequently to PBS for televised cultural programs. Forty-two percent (42%) of adults surveyed watch televised arts and culture on PBS, 35% watch traditional networks, 30% basic cable, and 15% premium cable, according to PBS.

Photo courtesy: PBS / Marc Bryan-Brown

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Rakesh Raman