As we celebrate The Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts (GSA) program’s 35th anniversary, we also celebrate the more than 7,200 student-artists and their respective communities across the Commonwealth whom have been extended the chance to envision the arts as a part of their future.

GSA is a three-week summer program that immerses student-artists in a rigorous schedule of daily seminars, creative projects, master classes and lectures. Throughout its history, the program has been hosted by several college campuses, with this year’s program taking place on the campus of The University of Kentucky. Since 1987, the program has continued to grow with the class of 2022 doubling to more than 500 students thanks to additional funding from the American Recovery Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Summer Enrichment funds (Office of Teaching and Learning) to be awarded over a three-year period.

While the educational aspect of GSA is centered around nine artistic disciplines, GSA is more than an arts program. The tuition-free program provides an empowering opportunity for students to imagine their life beyond high school by creating access to valuable resources, regardless of where in Kentucky that student is from.

For some students, the three weeks at GSA represent their first experience living away from home. From doing laundry to planning daily activities, the program helps students develop a sense of independence. Students are also able to interact with participants from different backgrounds and regions of Kentucky. With 71 counties represented in the class of 2022, students are empowered to share their unique perspective while learning from peers from across the state. Upon completing the program, students are then able to return to their communities with a broadened perspective of Kentucky, the arts and themselves.

Beyond the daily growth that naturally occurs for students during their time at GSA, the program also helps break down common barriers to educational attainment. By participating in GSA, students are provided access to scholarships that can greatly improve their ability to afford a college education. Currently, 28 regional and state universities have scholarship opportunities for GSA alumni that range from partial to full tuition. Upon receiving a more affordable college education, GSA Alumni are better equipped to achieve great success in their chosen fields and invest their skillsets into their communities.

During the program, students also gain the valuable experience of living on a college campus — allowing them to literally picture themselves in a university environment. Being able to imagine what this future looks like is vital to participants who go on to become the first in their family to graduate high school or attend college. College counseling opportunities are also provided to students during and after the program to further empower our student-artists to plan for their future.

For 35 years, GSA has increased education access while also promoting the individual and academic growth of our student-artists. By providing valuable support to student-artists across the state, we are investing in the future of creative leadership. GSA tells young budding artists that they are not alone, their future is bright, and the state of Kentucky and their communities are here to support them along their journey.

Kentucky high school students who are rising sophomores and juniors interested in attending GSA may apply for the program in the fall. Visit kentuckygsa.org to learn more.

Nick Covault is executive director for The Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts.

Nick Covault is executive director for The Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts.

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