Today is GSA Final Day, when every student gets to show off what's been learned in the past three weeks. It's a glorious celebration of arts and artists, ending with the graduation ceremony.
I'll be live blogging the event all day long, so check back later to find out how things are going. The fun gets started at noon.
11:27 -- Just arrived at Transylvania and am watching all the student artists and their families milling about, waiting for the shows to start. Lots of nervous smiles and picture taking and people thumbing through their programs planning their day. The visual art gallery is already open, but I'm going to save that for later in the day. Right now, I want to walk around and soak up the energy (and there is a LOT of energy!). Just heard a whole crowd of students hooting and screaming outside. No idea what it means, but it's probably good.
11:33 -- Just overheard in the lobby of Haggin Auditorium. Mom: Ryan's going to apply for this next year. Daughter: Yeah, well, I am, too.
11:57 -- I lied. I couldn't help it. I walked past Morlan Gallery where the Visual Art exhibit is and I had to go in early. The work is amazing! The first thing you notice are the faces, all the self-portraits, all so different, so expressive. One of the instructors mentioned that knowing how to write a sentence doesn't make you a poet, and knowing how to draw a lifelike picture doesn't make you an artist. These students are artists. The paintings, sketches, prints, sculptures (in ceramic and cardboard), the masks, all impressive to look at but also very moving, clearly works of discovery and wonder. These students didn't just draw, they really explored. Bravo! Well, nine disciplines and four-and-a-half hours to cover it all. I'd better get moving.
12:21 -- Interesting to move right from Visual Arts to New Media. The photography has much the same quality of personal exploration as the pieces I saw before. Some are realistic, beautiful captures of skylines and quiet, reflective moments. Some are digitally retouched (some VERY retouched) to be more expressive, almost abstract. I really love the short films, however. Some funny, some thoughtful and provocative, some animated, some live action, but all very professional. In fact, they are all collaborative, with drama students, instrumental musicians and new media artists all taking part. Some very exciting work.
12:46 -- I walk into the Poetry Reading by the Creative Writing students, and am confronted by a thin young man with hair that is purple and magenta. He is a performer, acting out his pieces with remarkable energy, not just reciting but living his short vignettes of the life he has lived and the one he imagines living in the future. He is followed by a girl, more reserved, more quiet, who reads poems of personal struggle, but one she triumphs over. She has an incredible image of her parents' divorce as 9/11. What's interesting is, as she continues to read, she develops the same confidence and performance skills of the poet before her. She owns these poems; you can hear it in her voice.
1:14 -- I arrived at Old Morrison Chapel for the Vocal Music students, and you could not imagine a better venue. The pews were packed. Strictly SRO. I heard a half dozen young men and women perform, and it was quite shocking. To these old eyes they looked like kids, but when they opened their mouths, what voices! Operatic, soaring to the rafters, performing with a theatrical swagger that was incredible. One aria in particular came from a young lady I would not be surprised to hear at the Met someday.
1:46 -- The Dance students are phenomenal. I hesitate to call them students; they are dancers. And I certainly wasn't expecting a program of modern dance. The one word that rings through this entire day is expressive, and these dancers embodied it beautifully. At times they seemed to be made of pure motion, at other times their movements were expressing ideas and emotions, sometimes subtle and elegant, sometimes explosive and violent, but always thrilling. I also love the collaboration when they were joined by a string quartet from the Instrumental Music class. All in all, it was an eye-opening performance.
1:58 -- A quick pit stop in the Green Room for a veggie sub, then back at it. What an exhilarating day!
2:25 -- I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from the Architecture students. What can you learn about architecture in three weeks? Turns out, a lot! From simply exploring how objects give us pleasurable sensations, they learned through five different projects to explore the spaces we inhabit and the ways we interact with our environment (or can be made to interact with it by the architect's clever use of space). In the end, they each designed and built models of an arts center, and honestly, I would not object to working in a number of the finished designs. They ranged from the whimsical to the dignified to some that almost seemed to be making a statement about art's place in the world. Not bad, after three weeks.
2:52 -- Musical Theater, the triple threat of the performing arts. Singing, dancing and acting, and the students in the Musical Theater class do not disappoint in any area. The performance was like a wonderful variety show, moving from one number to the next: monologues and duets, musical numbers and one extraordinary show-stopper that the entire class took part in. It was "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" from Mary Poppins, and it was brilliant. Exuberant and funny, spirited and energetic. And when the entire cast danced out the spelling of the word, it was a hoot. Well done!
3:25 -- What a divergent experience! When I arrived at the Drama students' showcase at Lucille Little Theater, what I saw was more like play than theater (but I guess that's why they call it a play). In little vignettes, the actors were soundlessly performing hilarious skits about love and anger. It was classical clowning of a high order. The next piece could not have been more different, however:an experimental, documentary play about the devastation in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. It was moving, even disturbing, and thought-provoking to the extreme. That is the highest compliment I can give it, and the remarkably fine performers who acted in it.
4:34 -- The GSA Jazz Ensemble is always a highlight of Final Day, and this year was no exception. What a sound! This year, they started with a number that featured seven (7!) improvised solos, including one for harmonica and one for tuba. Jazz tuba, that's a new one on me. Although the ensemble has only practiced about six hours total (they spend most of their three weeks on more classical chamber pieces, and every student gets to work on every piece), the musicians sounded phenomenal and played together like Big Band pros.
5:59 -- Graduation is over. The students have all been honored and congratulated. Speeches were made. They were told that they could all consider themselves artists for the rest of their lives, that the commonwealth of Kentucky values and supports them, that they should get involved in the arts and in their communities, and that they need to give back so others can experience what they have experienced at GSA.
So, to screams and shouts and chants of "GSA! GSA!" the curtain rings down on another spectacular year for The Kentucky Center Governor's School for the Arts.
About the Author: David Holland is Communications Director for The Kentucky Center. The opinions expressed in this post are his and do not represent The Kentucky Center’s mission, public position, opinions or strategies.