Dominic Vennemann, 16, first heard about the Governor’s School of the Artsor GSA, from friends at his dance studio in Kenton County, Ky.
“I asked my mother what” [GSA] was, and she explained it to me’, said Vennemann. “Then we started doing more research on that, and I said, ‘Oh, can I try it?'”
Venneman, a hip-hop dancer, felt he should try some additional dance forms to increase his chances of participating in the tuition-free arts program, held each summer at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. He added ballet and modern dance classes to his schedule and was accepted into the GSA dance program in 2022.
“And it’s a fun experience to constantly learn something new and build on my skills and just try new things,” he said of his time in Lexington. He can’t wait to go home and ask his mother if he can take more classes at his dance studio.
Venneman and his fellow GSA visitors will finish their latest projects and shows on Saturday.
This year, supported by a $2,850,000 Kentucky Department of Education scholarshiptwice as many children were able to attend GSA, a public-private partnership between Kentucky Performing Arts, the state, and private stakeholders.
Over 500 Commonwealth students were immersed for weeks in one of several art forms: from visual arts to dance, vocal music, musical theater, drama, creative writing, instrumental music, film and photography, and architecture and design. GSA officials believe that the Summer Intensive is much more than just refining the skills of young artists.
A career in art can take different forms
“I think vocal music has always been something I’ve enjoyed, and I think it’s easier to see a career path as a result of GSA,” said 17-year-old Dawson Gorby of Leitchfield.
Gorby said the teachers and activities during the program helped him see how many options there are.
“We talk about different paths to becoming a teacher or college professor… You can be a conductor, a singer in a choir or someone who sings in an opera… There is also music therapy,” he said. “I could really go on. There are a lot of things that people don’t necessarily think about.”
Executive Director Nick Covault, a 2002 GSA alum for vocal music, said the program is designed to help them see the many ways they can pursue an artistic career and how being an artist can help them in others. efforts.
“Whether they know it or not, they may have other passions that lead them to other careers,” he said. “That’s also part of what we’re doing here too, enabling them to understand that the skills they have as performers aren’t just useful on stage or on the gallery wall. But also in other sectors.”
He listed such things as agility, innovation, communication skills.
“We need artists in [other] industries,” Covault said, adding that communities also need citizens who can “help ensure that art is valued in our society.”
For the sake of joy and community
Sixteen-year-old Kennedy White said participating in the visual arts program at GSA this summer was “the pinnacle of my social life.”
“It was a lot of fun talking to people, other creatives. That helps me rekindle my passion for art,” says White, who calls Rineyville in Hardin County home.
White said she was encouraged by a teacher, who once attended GSA, to enroll in the program.
“Because I got to be around so many artistic people, I was able to make friends very, very quickly,” she continued. “It’s really easy to get to know people and find common interests and hang out and just get to know people on a different level.”
Before coming to Lexington, White said she wasn’t sure whether art was a viable career path, but the program has given her hope for what a creative future might look like.
“I don’t know exactly what I want to do with my life right now. But I hope to pursue something in art so that I can continue to create.”
Covault said they try to help students understand that it’s okay not to have all the answers at this point in their lives.
“So much of the work we do is about the creative process, it’s about living each day together as a community, and so much of it is about things like joy, or fun,” he said.
“We’re really trying to emphasize our life during this program and also live it in a way that focuses on just the magic that can happen when artists come together.”
As for the class size doubling this summer, Covault said they are already exploring ways to keep it going.
“None of us want to be at the end of this funding cycle, at the end of 2024, and say, ‘Well, I think we’re just going to go back to half capacity,'” he said. “So we definitely have plans to go through a fundraising campaign to keep this going…for years to come.”
Editor’s Note: Stephanie Wolf participated in a panel discussion during the 2022 Governor’s School for the Arts program.