The mission of Opening Nights Performing Arts Series and Festival at Florida State University is to engage the university, local, and global communities in creative experiences.
Performing arts presenting at Florida State began in 1921 with the creation of the Florida State College for Women Artist Series. The inaugural concert of the series was by composer and bandleader John Philip Sousa, and throughout the years world-class talent flocked to campus to perform – including modern dance pioneer and choreographer Martha Graham, cello virtuoso Pablo Casals, bandleader and pianist Count Basie, and the Metropolitan Opera National Touring Company.
In 1968, Florida State President John Champion enhanced the Artist Series by creating the Florida State University Fine Arts Festival, which presented the Artist Series’ international and national talent alongside faculty and student performances, encompassing the entire month of February. The Artist Series and Fine Arts Festival continued in some capacity until the end of the 1991 Spring Semester.
After taking office as President of Florida State University in 1994, Sandy D’Alemberte reached out to former Florida State presidents and first ladies, “What was your greatest accomplishment as President?” The Champions’ answer was resoundingly the “Fine Arts Festival,” which implored President D’Alemberte to reinstate performing arts presenting on campus. Thus, the inaugural season of Seven Days of Opening Nights took place in February 1999.
Arts education is at the core of Opening Nights’ mission. Our goal is to provide meaningful artistic and professional experiences to students on and off of Florida State University’s campus, and Opening Nights provides master classes, lectures, and question and answer sessions for students by visiting artists and performers. These educational opportunities are free to students and provide invaluable, face-to-face experiences.
In January 2014, Opening Nights and Leon County Schools were designated as Partners in Education by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The Partners in Education program is designed to assist arts organizations throughout the nation in developing and/or expanding educational partnerships with their local school systems, and Opening Nights/Leon County Schools partnership will provide professional development opportunities in arts integration that will help teachers meet the needs of diverse learners, increase arts education in schools, and ensure student success.
Since the inaugural festival seasons and seasons ago, Opening Nights has evolved into an annual series of performances from October to April, continuing to embrace history by presenting a two-week February festival like that of the Artist Series and Fine Arts Festival and drawing a curated, lauded selection of artists to Florida State’s campus year after year. Our efforts continue to bolster our program and arts education within the community, and we look forward to the future and the opportunities it holds.