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By: Mollie LaFavers, Communications Intern

“I love GSA. It really helped mold me into the person I am today and it taught me it’s okay to be unique…. When you’re expressing yourself and expressing your ability to be unique and stand apart from the crowd, that’s where you truly thrive and flourish and realize what abilities you have that you can contribute back to the community.” 

– Zack Story, GSA Visual Art, 2014

The Kentucky Center Governor’s School for the Arts (GSA) is a three-week-long summer program for Kentucky high school students to audition and attend in one of nine artforms: Architecture + Design, Creative Writing, Dance, Drama, Film & Photography, Instrumental Music, Musical Theatre, Visual Art, and Vocal Music.

Since 1987, GSA has guided over 200 of Kentucky’s finest young artists each summer on a journey of artistic and personal growth, leading to the formation of a strong community of GSA alumni that spans the state, the country, and the world.

As GSA’s 2018 summer program wrapped up in early July, I paid a visit to the program on behalf of Fund for the Arts to gain a behind-the-scenes perspective on the impact of the program. On Thursday, July 5, two days away from their final showcase, GSA students, faculty, and staff worked tirelessly to perfect the final touches on their summer’s work. Architecture + Design student Sandra Temgoua of Louisville took a break from setting up a striking architecture gallery to tell me a bit about her experience at GSA 2018.

When asked what she loves about the arts, Sandra said, “It gives me a new perspective. I come from duPont Manual High School and I’m in the MST program and that’s all about math, science, and technology. I feel like I can bring a new perspective to that field because I have this arts background. It’s really important for me.” 

On the other side of campus, in the staff office, GSA Resident Advisors ironed out logistical details to make for a successful and enjoyable final day showcase for all of the students and their families. I had the opportunity to chat with some of the RAs, many of whom are alumni of the program. In our conversations a few primary themes emerged: GSA positively impacts personal development and community building, and this program is truly a one-of-a-kind experience.

Zack Story, GSA Visual Art, 2014 and Katie Cornett, GSA Vocal Music, 2013 both expressed a feeling of true freedom of expression that developed through their experiences with GSA. Thanks to her training as an Opera performer Katie found an outlet to be whatever she wanted to be and express herself freely, leading to the conclusion that “the arts in general are just so good for the soul.”

One of the beautiful things about art is that, while it can lead to valuable individual growth, it simultaneously creates lasting and impactful communities. GSA is a perfect example of this. Courtney Cox, GSA Instrumental Music, 2013 said, “I think the way the arts are able to be both a very personal thing and something that brings people together is really cool. It’s something that you can do alone and find value in… but then it also has the power to impact a lot of other people.”

“Positivity was something I had been missing until I came to GSA and realized how much of a support system not only you could find in your own individual artform, but with the whole community. Even though we practice different arts you can still find a common thread, and that common thread is your passion for what you do.” – Megan Fridenmaker, GSA Dance, 2014

It is in the development of both the individual artist and the community that makes GSA a valuable and unique asset for the state of Kentucky. Andy Reeves, a non-GSA alumni, entered the program for the first time this summer as an RA and was blown away by the nurturing and supportive nature of the community.

Andy told me, “[GSA] made me more aware of how vital and alive the arts are in the commonwealth.” Early on he asked students where they would choose to go if they could live in only one place for the rest of their lives and most of them named cities like Chicago, New York City, and Las Angeles. But after three weeks of experiencing and witnessing the vitality of the arts community in the state of Kentucky, many were newly inspired to stay and give back to their community. Courtney Cox said, “I’m proud to be from Kentucky because of this program. I didn’t realize before GSA how much diversity is here and how many artists are here.”

GSA has an impact on the state of Kentucky both through the summer program and the network of alumni that it produces. To learn more about Governor’s School for the Arts, how to apply, get connected, and give back, visit www.kentuckycentergsa.org

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