Davis & Elkins College will be home to some of West Virginia's most talented youth as it hosts the three-week Governor's School for the Arts (GSA) beginning Sunday.
Dean of GSA and Associate Professor of Theater at D&E Tom Hackman, along with eight faculty members and nine resident staff members, will welcome the 100 participating students and their parents to campus in a welcome ceremony Sunday.
The students will spend Sunday getting settled into their rooms in Moyer Hall as well as touring the campus and classrooms. To help break the ice, students will participate in a contra dance Sunday night.
GSA is one of three Governor's Schools of West Virginia for academically and/or artistically talented students from across the Mountain State. The Governor's School for Math and Science hosts rising eighth- and ninth-graders, GSA hones in on the artistic abilities of rising high school juniors and the Governor's Honors Academy welcomes some of the best and brightest rising high school seniors. The Governor's Schools are residential summer sessions hosted at various colleges and institutions across the state; the camps are entirely free for students to attend.
Students participating in GSA must select an artistic discipline to study at the camp conducted July 1 through 21. The disciplines offered include creative writing, acting, visual art, dance, digital media, instrumental music and vocal music.
To be accepted into GSA, students must complete a written application; those who met the application's criteria were then called to a live audition. More than 300 students attended the auditions in Charleston, Morgantown and Charles Town. After observing the artists practice their discipline, the eight faculty members were given the task of choosing the 100 GSA participants.
"For me it is kind of refreshing to see this many highly talented young people and to see that drive. The level of enthusiasm is just really refreshing to see," Hackman said.
This is the second year that D&Elkins has hosted GSA and all eight faculty members are returning. Dr. Bill King, professor of English and chairman of the English department at Davis & Elkins, will teach the creative writing courses. April Daras, associate professor of theatre and chairwoman of the Fine & Performing Arts department at Davis & Elkins, will lead the acting classes. Instructor of art at D&E, Michael Doig is the master teacher for visual art.
The discipline of dance is taught by two professionals. Barbara Yurick, a member of the dance faculty at West Virginia University, will teach ballet while Donald Laney, co-artistic director of the West Virginia Dance Co., will teach modern dance. Digital media will be led by Brent Patterson, professor of new media and graphic design at Marshall University. Instrumental music will be taught by Seth Young, adjunct instructor of music at D& E and a full-time music teacher at Jennings-Randolph Elementary School. Elizabeth Marshall is GSA's master teacher for vocal music and is the choral director of the D&E concert choir and is music instructor at Elkins High School.
A typical day for the students will begin with breakfast and a morning meeting before heading to two hours of major discipline time. After lunch, students complete a second two-hour major discipline session.
Because the students spend so much time within their major discipline they often get insulated from the other six disciplines. Hackman said the camp has devised a way to keep the students informed on the activities going on within the other disciplines by hiring two videographers from West Liberty University. Jared Thompson and Aaron Kuhn will document the camp's daily activities. Every evening Thompson and Kuhn will compile a video containing student interviews from the day's events and they will show the video to the students in the following morning meeting.
Everyday students will get to choose from a variety of afternoon activities; they also will get some downtime in their dorms before heading to dinner. After dinner, students are required to participate in an interdisciplinary class, where they will get a chance to learn about the other six art disciplines.
The evenings will be concluded with an event. Hackman said, GSA will host a variety of West Virginia artists as well as other groups including traveling story tellers and an improv group.
"In my mind this is another way to combat the statistic in West Virginia of young people leaving the state. That if we show them that there are other artists in the state and we show them there are artists working and making a living in the state, then maybe they won't be so inclined to leave the state," Hackman said.
"One of the goals is to broaden their artistic horizons and expose them to other artistic endeavors. They get to work with the other master teachers, not just the one in their own field," Hackman said. "One of the goals of the governor's school is to try and create an artistic community within the state."
The students will experience weekend trips to the nation's capital as well as the state's capital. While in Washington D.C. the students will watch The Music Man at Arena Stage, tour the Kennedy Center as well as the Smithsonian museums.
The theme for the three years that Davis & Elkins hosts GSA is "History and Heritage of the Arts."
"We set high goals for the students that come to GSA," Hackman said. "Not only do we want them to become more knowledgeable and proficient in their discipline, but also develop pride in the history and heritage of their native state."
Falling under the history and heritage theme, Hackman said the 2012 camp is following the theme of "The Way We Worked."
"Work has always been a subject of art and West Virginia in some ways has always been defined from work," Hackman said. "Work is a very rich subject matter; it always has been and it probably always will be."
GSA will conclude with a closing ceremony titled "Sharing of the Arts" in the Harper-McNeeley Auditorium on July 21. Parents, friends and community members are welcome to attend the event and view the artists' work.