Creative Sparks

Inside the Governor’s School for the Arts experience

Summer 2018 Governor’s School for the Arts students.

By Laura Ross

It’s undeniable that a foundation in the arts builds leaders who guide with integrity, creativity and enthusiasm. In a world with troubling funding cuts in arts education, more than ever, it’s imperative to offer young people the chance to shine in the arts. The Kentucky Center Governor’s School for the Arts (GSA) does just that.

An annual three-week intensive summer arts residency program for high school sophomores and juniors, GSA builds a creative voice through many disciplines for more than 200 of Kentucky’s most talented teens. Students focus on nine different disciplines: architecture and design, creative writing, dance, drama, film and photography, instrumental music, musical theatre, visual art and vocal music.

Dance students during their final performance.

For Elizabethtown High School senior Lily Addington, 17, it was an opportunity to explore her love of writing this summer as she attended GSA in the creative writing discipline. “I’ve always had a passion for telling stories, and I gained so many valuable lessons from my mentors about going deeper in my stories and how to strengthen my diction with conviction,” she said. “However, some of the most important lessons I learned from my mentors were about being vulnerable and present to the world around me.”

Begun as a public-private partnership between the Kentucky Center for the Arts, the Governor’s office and others in 1987, GSA has seen more than 6,100 high school students benefit from the intensive arts-focused experience. GSA students attend the summer program for free, with the program covering all expenses for tuition, room, board and supplies. GSA students participate in daily seminars, masterclasses, lectures, workshops and field trips to regional arts attractions led by professional artists. The instructors act as positive role models for the young artists and provide insights into the professional world of the arts, art careers and arts education.

For the past five years, GSA was housed at Centre College. The University of Kentucky recently announced that the UK College of Fine Arts will host the GSA for the coming four years. The 2019 GSA summer program will take place June 23-July 13.

An instrumental music student’s final performance.

“I am thrilled to have the University of Kentucky join GSA in our vital efforts to empower the Commonwealth’s next generation of creative leaders,” said GSA Director Nick Covault, who is also an alumnus of GSA’s Vocal Music program. “I look forward to the collaboration as we remind young artists that they are valued and crucially important to society.”

“GSA is a strenuous program,” said Addington. “You never truly stop working and it will test your fervor for your art form, but it was also the most exciting time of my life. It is an unparalleled experience that permits you to constantly be working at the passion you love dearly and exposes you to other facets of art.”

LIly Addington.

According to GSA leaders, its young alumni are highly competitive prospective college students, who routinely score higher GPAs and ACT scores than both the state and national averages. Ninety-eight percent of GSA alumni attend college and/or receive scholarships to a higher education institution. Additionally, 29 colleges and universities offer scholarships to alumni of GSA.

“The world we live in today is so clouded by division and hate, and the arts have the power to exemplify positivity and open the door for raw emotion,” said Addington. “When youth are inspired to be honest in their beliefs and display them through their talents, the future has no boundaries. There was such a diverse group of young adults at GSA that I gained unique perspectives from, and I am unbelievably thankful for those relationships.” VT

Applications are now being accepted for the 2019 summer program at kentuckygsa.org. The deadline to apply is Jan. 11, 2019.