Governor's School for the Arts program moves online because of COVID-19

Posted at 7:39 PM, Jul 03, 2020

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The Governor’s School for the Arts (GSA) is hosting a virtual program this year due to COVID-19.

GSA is a three-week summer program of the Kentucky Performing Arts in which selected high school students are immersed in master arts classes and creative projects led by professional Kentucky artists.

GSA is taking place from July 3 through July 17. It was originally scheduled to be held at the University of Kentucky, but now is taking place through student’s computer screens using the video chat program, Zoom.

“No one is better equipped to respond to times like this than artists. We’re adaptable, we’re resilient, we’re innovative, we find ways to make it work," GSA Program Director Nick Covault said. "And so we just took this perspective that this is just a blank canvas in front of us. Let’s take this as a creative challenge."

A total of 256 students from 55 counties were selected for the 2020 program out of more than 1,400 applicants.

“They deserve this first off. Second of all, they’re young artists and all of them are surrounded by a great support network but we know that artists are very used to feeling like their interest in art separates them from everyone around them and at GSA, it’s what you have in common with everyone,” Covault said.

Canceling the summer program was never an option, according to Covault. Instead, GSA staff restructured their lesson plans to accommodate Zoom lessons.

“The type of empowerment that can give these young artists to realize that there are other young Kentuckians who share that passion and that interest and that there are professionals, our faculty, our staff, who think that they are uniquely interesting and important because they’re artists...we couldn’t cancel that," Covault said.

The program is broken into five disciplines: architecture and design, creative writing, dance, visual art, vocal music, and drama, film and photography.

For hands-on lessons, including pottery and printing, boxes of materials were prepared for students in order to give everyone the same access to supplies.

“I’m just so proud of everyone’s ability to show up and be resilient and look at that blank canvas and say let’s make something out of this situation and let’s not do something in spite of our situation with COVID-19. Let’s do something because of it,” said Covault.

Students are actively using Zoom’s chat function to respond in real-time to both the professionals giving presentations and their fellow students during sessions, according to Covault.

“Even though it was being mediated through a screen, they got beyond that and they were really feeling like they were in the studio together. And I thought, ‘That’s it. We’re in our GSA bubble.’ I wasn’t really sure we could get to that place but I really think we’ve found that place where they’re able to push away the rest of the world,” said Susan Harrison, who teaches printing in the visual arts discipline.

Covault said despite being limited to a computer screen, students are receiving individualized attention during office hours and work periods. He said the goal is for students to have work they use in college applications by the end of the program.