Arts Bureau Edge journalists had Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts covered as it went virtual

Covering Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts had been a goal since Arts Bureau Edge began working in 2018 with young people to help them step into the role of arts journalists coving the Louisville region. Even in a normal year, that goal seemed far off, given the logistics and the expenses it would have entailed for these young reporters to attend. 

But when GSA announced in May it would hold the program virtually, I knew this was something that Arts Bureau Edge’s young journalists could do. So, with the assistance of the GSA staff — granting us access to sessions and classes and connecting us with students and faculty — we did it. And here are the fruits of these young people’s efforts. Their hard work makes me proud and their enthusiasm for arts journalism encourages me about the future of the craft.

Once again, much appreciation goes to Keith Stone and Scott Recker of LEO, who have practiced the values of collaborative journalism by bringing the community the work of Arts Bureau Edge reporters since this program’s beginning. Also, thank you to Jana John for her copyediting expertise.

— Elizabeth Kramer, founder, Arts Bureau Edge

“Pressure,” collapsed magazine pages. Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts visual art student Angelida Stewart created this 3-D collage to reflect the pressures the media exert on women regarding appearance. Courtesy Kentucky Performing Arts.

GSA students do more than study their art: They learn how to nurture their voices 

By Angel Cathey | Arts Bureau Edge Reporter

Kevin Olusola, the Pentatonix beatboxer and renowned cello player who recently released his first solo album, recalled how he first found his artistic voice at Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts. He was playing solo saxophone on Dave Brubeck’s song “Take 5” in a masterclass with jazz musician Arturo O’Farrill.

“I thought I’d just play what sounds nice to me,” Olusola said. “I started to play, and he said stop, just stop. Then, he said, listen, man, express you. Express yourself. What are you trying to say?”

Olusola remembered no one had ever asked him that. 

“Then I started to play and started doing things I never thought I could do,” he said.

Olusola spoke via Zoom to participants in this year’s GSA about authenticity and never giving up when going through the journey of finding your artistic voice.

Creators of any kind must find their voice.

Since 1987, GSA has been a prime event for young artists to bond with others like themselves. It also has been an important station along their life paths in finding their artistic voices or styles. Overall, finding that personal seed of artistry allows you to be, express and shine as you.

This year, GSA students had an unprecedented hitch. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, GSA moved to a virtual platform. 

Some students talked about how they felt about attending a virtual GSA.

A’Taijah Burrus, a rising senior at The Academy at Shawnee High School, studied creative writing at GSA. 

“I was really disappointed because I wanted to meet all of the artists in person, but I was excited to know it wasn’t canceled and that we would be able to meet in a way,” Burrus said. 

Still, the 2020 GSA students have worked hard and striven to find their artistic voices.

Students studied and created work related to their art form — architecture and design, dance, drama, creative writing, visual art, instrumental and vocal music. They also explored what art means to them. This year, they met multiple times a day online and were taught by teachers who had experience in their art form. Although many say it was busy, it was worth it in the end. 

Many students in different art forms agreed they already had a sense of their own voice. But GSA played a part in helping develop it by teaching them new tools that they didn’t know.

Sarah DeGeorge, a Ballard High School rising senior, studied architecture and design and talked about her new-found voice during GSA. 

“I did use my voice before GSA but not quite as much,” DeGeorge said. “It’s made me more outspoken, more passionate and more educated about the artistic world.” 

DeGeorge described her voice in three words — “exciting, expansive and vibrant.” It stems from her personal and design style choices. The perfectionist in her shows up in her linework and precision, she said.

Just after GSA, she said she couldn’t put into words how much she had learned.

“Design has opened up a whole new world of ideas and cultures that I didn’t see before,” DeGeorge said. “I’ve learned different tools I can incorporate when building up communities that involve all types of people.”

Even though GSA students study a variety of art forms and work in different ways, they all relate in their search for individual voices and how to express them. Burrus found hers through creative writing.

“I found my voice in ninth grade and immediately became an advocate for social justice,” Burrus said. “GSA has taught me things that are keeping me on a steady path to becoming an amazing writer. I can tell I’ll come out of this better than ever.”

Another writer, Louisville Male High School rising senior On’Dria Gibson, discovered her voice as a sophomore after writing a short story. She explained how GSA boosted her confidence.

“I’m way more positive about my work, as I have started seeing my work more clearly,” Gibson said. “I’ve used my voice by writing a bunch of poems and short stories.”

Gibson often writes about growth, healing and isolation. Her voice, she said, reflects how she identifies in the world versus how the world sees her. Being a queer, Black girl has shaped a lot of her work in the past two years.

Other students praised the program and commended GSA instructors for helping them develop their art form and find a clearer path, new-found voice or new tools that will change their lives as creators.

Angelida Stewart, a Bath County High School rising senior, discovered her voice and purpose after becoming comfortable in her own skin. Stewart described a bit of that tough journey prior to GSA. 

“I didn’t find my voice as an artist until I became comfortable speaking my truth,” she said. “Living in a conservative area, my ideologies were often written off as too controversial.”

Stewart described letting her fear of offending someone work her into a box that she longed to get out of. 

“I stuck to paintings that were safe,” she said.

During the 2016 election, Stewart saw classmates proudly expressing themselves, and she realized advocating for equal rights and acceptance wasn’t something she should shy away from. 

“I began to feel validated, and since then I’ve stopped sugarcoating my art,” she said.

Stewart credited finding her voice to research. Through research she discovered African American history, culture and backgrounds. 

“I’m forever thankful for the boundaries technology has broken, and the opportunities it has given me to find my voice,” she said.

Stewart’s work and journey reflect Olusola’s ideas about the duty artists have to express their voices. 

“For people who have biases and prejudices and judge people because they don’t understand,” Olusola said. “Well, then it’s our job to help them understand through our art. Art translates in ways that mere words can’t.”

Like Olusola and GSA students said, an artistic voice can rise through a journey and is fostered by constant curiosity, research and breaking boundaries.

“It’s a lifelong journey,” Olusola told the students, “but you can start that journey now.”

Angel Cathey, a rising junior in the communications/journalism program at duPont Manual High School, has written for the Manual RedEye newspaper and has participated in two other Arts Bureau Edge workshops.

Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts vocal students in session with instructors during this summer’s program. Courtesy Kentucky Performing Arts.

GSA vocal music students accept challenges of attending from home, sing in virtual chorus 

By Irena Fletcher | Arts Bureau Edge Reporter

For three weeks this summer, more than 30 high school singers gathered together by hopping onto their favorite device for a long and hard-working day of choir on Zoom. That’s what most mornings were like for Governor’s School for the Arts student Brianna Johnson and the others.

The group that included Johnson, a rising senior at duPont Manual High School’s Youth Performing Arts School, was part of the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts, which became a virtual program this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of canceling GSA, administrators followed an adage that artists know — the show must go on. 

However, these vocals students didn’t have your typical everyone-come-together-and-sing kind of classes. They came together and sang virtually. As the GSA continued its long history of its various programs along with its 2020 choir program, this year this different kind of camp worked its magic online. 

GSA Vocal Music Chairperson and Choral Director and Bellarmine University Associate Professor Alexander T. Simpson presented students the task of making a virtual choir as a part of this year’s GSA vocal music curriculum. The choir sang Mozart’s “Ave Verum Corpus.”

Simpson said each student had to make a recording while using headphones and sing their part into the mic. Then the students sent the recording to Simpson, who reviewed each file before sending all of them to a sound engineer who put the sound pieces together. 

Virtual choirs have been around for a while, but it wasn’t until the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic that they began gaining popularity.

Choirs and singers have been significantly affected by the pandemic. Row after row of singers packed tightly together, mouths wide open to boisterously emit notes to a song can be a prime source for the spread of COVID-19. So, people needed to get creative. From the Boston Children’s Chorus to the Camden Voices in the United Kingdom, groups have recorded their choirs. In Houston, a show choir performs at least two songs per month virtually. The world’s largest virtual choir was organized this year by Grammy Award-winning composer Eric Whitacre with 17,572 vocalists from 129 different countries and debuted on YouTube in July.

Simpson said he had no reservations about doing a virtual choir at GSA, even though it might be difficult for some students. 

“We didn’t get to do live auditions this year, so we didn’t know if students could read music, which was a challenge. We were not sure how their voices would meld,” he said. “I was happy it wasn’t canceled, happy that everyone was committed and that we are going to make it happen — no matter what.”

“We didn’t get to do live auditions this year, so we didn’t know how well students would be able to read music, which created a definite challenge,” he said. “We were also not sure how their voices would meld because the true quality of the voices are not always well-represented on the audition submissions. So much depends on the quality of the equipment they use to record themselves, and that is not always the best.”

Still, Simpson was “thrilled” GSA wasn’t canceled. He added, he was “proud we are going to make it happen — no matter what.”

Johnson said singing the virtual choir piece “Ave Verum Corpus” allowed her to tap into her strengths as a vocalist.

“I had to make sure my notes were on point. It was nice to hear other people and give each other feedback and encouragement,” she said. “The song is not too hard, and I think it was a good song for us since we have different skill levels.”

Students got the time to practice some in daily lessons via Zoom. While singing online may sound a bit easier than singing in person, there’s no doubt that everyone met challenges.

“You have to have the right vocal range for Zoom that will not cause distortion. For example, the reproductions of very loud, high soprano passages can be a bit dangerous,” Simpson said. “The selection also had to be the appropriate length due to severely limited rehearsal time, combined with possible issues with the aforementioned reading skill of some students.”

From video and audio distortion due to poor internet connections or microphones, to audio cutting out altogether, the process of singing on Zoom seemed to be more laborious than your typical, in-person choir practices.

Johnson said that when singing for the virtual choir, everyone had to be more  responsible for their own parts. They could not depend on hearing other singers around them for finding their notes or parts. It was difficult for some because not everyone was able to read music by themselves.

Some might ask if GSA was really worth the effort since the students were not able to have the same in-person experiences as past students. 

“For many of the students, it was their first time being around others who are as passionate as they are,” Simpson said. “Had they not had the GSA experience, they could’ve given up on their passion.” 

Some students, like Johnson, found her passion in choir.

“We all had to make the most out of it, and it’s been really fun,” Johnson said. “It has truly changed my life.”

Many other students who had hoped to experience their chance at the gates of learning heaven in-person might later have felt the same as Johnson. Each student had to make it work in their own way — and they did.

“One girl did all the classes in bed. Another did the classes outside except when it came to voice lessons,” Simpson said.

“One student did the majority of the classes while lying in a bed rather than sitting at a desk. Another did classes while strolling in the yard or laying in the grass,” Simpson said. “Both paid close attention, took great notes and were incredibly involved in discussions, they just needed a different background to enhance their ability to concentrate. Of course, they did use a more traditional space for their voice lessons.”

The program truly showed how resilient and focused they were. They had been motivated from the very start to learn the music and be engaged on a daily basis.

For her part, Johnson was excited to have the opportunity to attend GSA since her sister was a part of GSA in 2016, studying dance, and her mother attended GSA in 1989 to study theater. But singing comes naturally to Johnson.

“I sing to bring joy to other people,” she said. “I love the way singing and music makes me feel. When I got to YPAS, I kind of fell in love with opera and want to have a career singing opera.” 

Now, she has had the GSA and virtual choir experience as well as the guidance of others to help her along her journey.

Irena Fletcher, a rising junior at duPont Manual High School’s Youth Performing Arts School (band magnet) has studied dance and music (instrumental and voice) and participated in Arts Bureau Edge’s first workshop.

Doug Drewek, Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts instrumental music faculty member, coached the jazz band class for instrumental music students.

GSA instrumental music students persevere under situation that has them playing from home 

By Gracie Vanover | Arts Bureau Edge Reporter

As the clock flashed at 1 p.m., instrumental music students, including rising Hopkinsville High School senior and euphonium player Jared Chance-Martin, logged on to Zoom for their virtual lessons. No student expected to attend the 2020 Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts this way. Regardless, they were still ready to learn.

Instrumental music students from across Kentucky were part of a GSA program grounded in classical music in which they took part in master and theory classes to improve their abilities. Although this year provided challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many students and teachers said this did not discourage them.

GSA’s instrumental music program includes both band and orchestra players as well as piano. Most students do not come from solid classical music backgrounds — as many schools teach music from all genres whether it be in a marching band or symphony orchestra.

On the teaching end of GSA, there was a little struggle to adjust, but that did not disrupt the masterclasses. 

Masterclass teacher Vince DiMartino was one of the teachers who had to shift instruction. DiMartino, whose focus in the instrumental program was on brass instruments, let his students choose solo pieces and critiqued their playing.

“I really did not have to change what I (was teaching), just how I did it,” he said. “The only difference, but important, was I could not see the facial expressions of the whole group at once and interact with group synergy. This just does not happen online.”

Students said they were worried GSA would be a let-down, but they were graciously surprised when it was more than they hoped for. 

“I was heartbroken to hear that (GSA) would be taking place virtually, rather than in person. At the time, it seemed so weird to have an artists’ program virtually,” said rising South Laurel High School senior and oboe player Jakob Combs. “Well, these past three weeks, I have been shown more artistry than I’ve ever seen in my life. I have been taught that artists are resilient and crucial in times such as these. I have been taught that my art is important, and it can and will influence others.”

DiMartino said he hoped GSA would benefit students musically as well as emotionally.

“Hopefully, (I left them with) an emotional journey that I was leading them through with my piece — also, an appreciation of what visual arts, literature and dance do that relates to the expression we hear in music,” he said. “Being an audience (member) helps each individual to define his or her own emotions and relationship to their artistic presentation.”

GSA also provided students with advice on how to improve and receive important feedback for their future careers and even help with normal performance anxieties.

“GSA will benefit me in the future because I’ll be more prepared to speak and perform in front of many people,” said rising senior and flute player Maire Birdwell, who attends Lafayette Senior High School. “Before GSA, I had extreme performance anxiety. But during the program, being able to perform a lot more and being given lots of appreciation made me feel better about myself and my playing.”

The passion faculty exuded for teaching music also inspired students.

“(It’s) unbelievable. Really. It’s just crazy how I can feel so much passion from just a few people,” said Chance-Martin. “I mean it was very clear throughout the whole program how much they cared about not only our educations but our future as people and musicians.”

Even without the in-person exposure, students found this year’s GSA to be what they hoped for.

“I would have (liked to be) able to be surrounded physically by Kentucky’s greatest artists and perform live,” said Combs. “However, I wouldn’t have wanted this year’s experience in any other way. My fellow instrumental music students and I — outside of studio times — were able to bond over our devices like no other.”

Gracie Vanover, a 2020 graduate of Floyd Central High School, is entering her freshman year at Indiana University Southeast, where she will study journalism. At Floyd Central, she served as Editor-in-Chief and Assistant A&E Editor of The Bagpiper, and a producer at WNAS and FCTV. During high school, she also was a Highlander Marching Band member and in concert and pep band. (She played clarinet, bass clarinet and alto saxophone.) Vanover has participated in four other Arts Bureau Edge workshops.

Dance performance captured during the 2019 Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts at University of Kentucky. Photo by Ed Boomershine. Courtesy Kentucky Performing Arts.

GSA pursues ways to showcase student work through Covid-19 virtual format 

By Gracie Vanover | Arts Bureau Edge Reporter

In past years at the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts, students and faculty prepared their final works for the year to showcase to friends and family. Performances ranged from collaborations like dance and visual arts to student-made movies. The showcase served as a grand finale for each program and a final in-person bonding experience before students returned home.

But GSA 2020 students still had a grand digital send-off. 

It came after GSA students spent three weeks online in sessions because administrators had decided on a digital format in May due to the current pandemic. Students may not have been able to perform for each other in person this year, but that did not bring the showcase to a halt. This year it was based more around the individual programs rather than a huge collaborative showcase as in years past. 

Instructors adapted. 

“I didn’t want class time to feel boring because [instructors] were focused on a grand showcase. So, I basically gave them parameters and let them take charge from there,” said GSA Director Nick Covault. “I gave the faculty a lot of space to decide what was practical for [their areas]. Going back in time to April and May — back then there were a lot more question marks, like ‘What would fit in the time?’ and ‘What [digital platforms] could we use?’”

This year’s digital showcase worked with the help of platforms like Flipgrid, Cakewalk, GarageBand, iMovie and others. Even with a different showcase format, many students said the showcases highlighted the end to their overall experience.

“My experience [with the platforms] was very positive, although it would have been amazing to perform these pieces live,” said rising South Laurel High School senior and oboe player Jakob Combs. “Flipgrid was actually only one of the few methods we used to showcase our pieces. It was used for our community service performances.”

Community service projects are a major part of teaching GSA students. A goal that faculty try to incorporate into their teachings is how to use their art to better communities.

Each program also chose different ways to produce their showcases. Some were galleries of photos, and others were videos. Some programs, like the instrumental music students, took it a step further and produced both showcase and community service videos. 

GSA instrumental music faculty member Nancy Campbell had students record themselves performing uplifting pieces for essential workers, such as nurses and doctors, to inspire them during the pandemic. 

“I chose Flipgrid because it was very easy for students to use and submit videos to me. It was also easy for me to compile the videos into the mixtape,” she said. “It gave the students an opportunity to think about performing in a different and meaningful way, beyond the practice room and concert hall.”

Campbell had these students pick pieces that show gratitude and respect for healthcare workers.

“Our goal is to send these messages of comfort and healing to hospitals, both patients and staff, nursing homes and other places that might be in need,” she said.

Architecture and photography faculty organized virtual galleries for their students.  

“GSA Film and Photography work is normally displayed on campus at the end of the program, with our photo work printed and hung in a gallery and the films projected for students and their families to see,” said GSA Film and Photography Faculty Chair Will Cravens. “[Since GSA had to display work digitally], we helped the students organize their work throughout the program so that when it was time to upload their film and photos to the website, it was a relatively easy process.”

These online galleries are great for sharing work and boosting artists’ confidence. It shows them that their art is worthy of being admired.

“I think the biggest thing that I took away from GSA is that I am worthy as a filmmaker, a photographer and as an artist,” said rising duPont Manual High School senior and film and photo student Cesca Campisano. “Before GSA, I definitely was super insecure in my own work and didn’t believe that I was talented enough to compare to any of the other people in my art form. But what I learned was that almost everyone I met during the program felt that way too.”

Faculty still feel the showcase and digitally exhibited works — which are all available via GSA’s website — represent GSA and give students a great digital outlet to share their works.

“Now they can use [these links] for college opportunities or to even just share their works with friends and family,” said Covault. 

He also emphasized GSA gives students more than a stage or gallery space. 

“You still see the time the students put into making these chamber pieces and other artworks,” said Covault. “Also, I was really happy that the spirit of the program was captured because GSA isn’t about creating the best painter, writer, or whatever. We aren’t here to make you professionals, we’re here to better their creativities and show them how to use their art for community services.”

While going forth with GSA during a pandemic was more difficult for faculty than originally expected, many are grateful to have been able to still work with students to make art. 

“Virtually it was more difficult to work with, because of the usage of the weird [platforms] I had never heard of,” said Combs. “Nonetheless, we persevered and still made some pretty amazing art, if I do say so myself.”  

Though the future may be uncertain, many are relieved to see that a pandemic is not getting in the way of creating art or the fun that comes with it.

“I feel like GSA did a great job making me and my peers have an adequate learning experience, even though it was all online,” said rising senior and flute player Maire Birdwell, who attends Lafayette Senior High School. “These three weeks took me away from all the worry and stress from the pandemic.”

Gracie Vanover, a 2020 graduate of Floyd Central High School, is entering her freshman year at Indiana University Southeast, where she will study journalism. At Floyd Central, she served as Editor-in-Chief and Assistant A&E Editor of The Bagpiper, and a producer at WNAS and FCTV. During high school, she also was a Highlander Marching Band member and in concert and pep band. (She played clarinet, bass clarinet and alto saxophone.) Vanover has participated in four other Arts Bureau Edge workshops.

Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts Director Nick Covault with his Dolly Parton Rubik’s Cube, which became the subject of an inside joke called the Daily Dolly in this year’s GSA. Courtesy Kentucky Performing Arts.

Camp Life with Covid-19: The Virtual GSA Experience 

Exploring how GSA created community via virtual spaces 

By Annie Whaley | Arts Bureau Edge Reporter

“We would play games like Mafia or some online games to connect with one another and just have fun at the end of a long day,” said Sachi Dixit, a rising senior at duPont Manual High School and part of this summer’s Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts. “I had some great laughs in those meetings and really loved every moment spent with my RA.” 

This might sound like just another night in the dorms during GSA when students like Dixit usually stay in the University of Kentucky facilities for three weeks straight (weekends included). Most evenings they participate in activities with the residential advisers (RAs). It’s the general summer camp experience — but one rooted in all things art.

But Dixit didn’t have that experience this year. 

During the weekdays between June 29 through July 17, Dixit and other students had sessions to delve into their particular art forms and then met with RAs in the early evenings — all via Zoom meetings instead of in person as originally planned. In May, the spread of Covid-19 compelled Kentucky Performing Arts and its partners, the Commonwealth of Kentucky and UK, to make this year’s GSA completely virtual. 

And organizers wanted to cultivate the social aspects.

“We wanted to keep RA groups as part of the virtual program because the mentorships, informal connection and community of the RA groups are essential to the core of any student’s GSA experience,” said GSA Director Nick Covault.

GSA is notable for its once-in-a-lifetime creative opportunities — and equally for the connections it nurtures. GSA students, surrounded by like-minded people their own age who have the same passion for art and need to create, develop lifelong friendships.

This year, they formed connections very quickly. Out of the gate, administrators and RAs created a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. Administrators and RAs developed mini traditions and inside jokes. Covault made himself a king of inside jokes by creating fun routines like “phrase of the day” and Daily Dolly.

The Daily Dolly sprung from a Rubik’s Cube decorated with different images of Dolly Parton that Covault keeps on his desk. 

“There’s a running joke that you can tell which mood I’m in based on which Dolly is facing my office door,” he said. 

Once students saw the Dolly Rubik’s Cube during a Zoom tour of Covault’s office, they ran wild with it, asking Covault during every morning announcement which Dolly he was feeling that day. One student even took the Dolly theme into his own hands and creatively submitted an image of his face on top of a picture of Dolly Parton. 

“It may seem trivial, but I think those little shared moments are especially impactful when the entire school is spread out across the state,” Covault said. 

Even online, the GSA team was able to cultivate vivid running jokes. And if GSA weren’t virtual this year, there never would have been a Zoom tour of Covault’s office, and the Daily Dolly never would have existed. 

Meetings with RA groups differed from past years, where students would have three to four meetings with their groups. This year, the meetings were every day, Monday through Friday, so RAs really had to work together to find ways to keep students engaged after a long day in front of their screens. 

“Our RA group-chat was always full of new ideas for games that worked with our students and things that didn’t,” said Joseph Garcia, an RA and GSA alumnus. “I have to thank the other RAs and our amazing admin team. Without their constant support, it would have been a much harder summer.”

RAs also used specific exercises through virtual spaces to foster new bonds between participants, such as one called the “Circle of Love.”

DuPont Manual High School rising senior Anna Berry, who studied theater, said in this exercise “everybody had a Google slide with their name on it, and we’d all write something nice about the person.”

Since creativity is such a vital part of GSA, the RA meetings had some clever twists. Some RAs dedicated themes for their meetings. One day one of them was “camping,” and another day the theme was “PJ day.” 

“Everyone would dress up, and we would get on the call and just goof around,” Dixit said. “Everyone in GSA is the most genuine person ever, and they radiate the best positivity. It’s a community you really want to be a part of.”

Some RAs found that positive attitude contagious (pun intended).

“As an alum who went through a similar experience during my time at GSA, it makes me so proud and happy for them to see that growth,” Garcia said. “I feel confident they will go into the world, even during times of uncertainty, ready to change it for the better with their art.”

Evening RA meetings cultivated friendships between students who were in different programs, and who could be living on completely opposite sides of the state. They also helped students relax and have fun. Some said these meetings were their favorite parts of the day.

Those relationships include ones that span the state, like the one between Dixit and Reese DeHaven, a rising junior at Breckinridge County High School in Hardinsburg. They met through the dance program and immediately hit it off.

Social media — Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat — played a huge role in connecting the students. The hashtags “heyGSA” and “GSA2020” peppered platforms with posts of students gushing about their experiences and their fond memories of the participants, teachers, guest speakers and administrators. But social media also became a way for participants in the same program to get to know each other, create other inside jokes and foster a greater feeling of community. 

“By the third day, the girls all had each other’s Snap and Insta, and we had created a group-chat on Snap and Group Me,” Dixit said.  

They still communicate with each other almost every day.

“I felt like I was part of a family, an amazingly talented family,” said DeHaven. “I couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls to dance with. Even over Zoom, we all really clicked. You could feel the love and happiness radiating from the screen.”

Memories like these are what participants will likely take with them for years to come. The lessons they learned through GSA will shape who they are as an artist and as a person. And even through virtual spaces, they said they still felt valued, appreciated and part of the GSA family. 

Covault said when it is safe to do so, the administration would love to have a reunion for this year’s participants so they will be able to meet face-to-face with their friends, teachers and RAs. 

“Something our outstanding artist-in-residence, Harry Pickens, tells the students at the end of the program, is to remember that GSA isn’t a place, it’s a state of mind,” Garcia said. “This year the GSA experience came alive in their homes.”

Annie Whaley, a rising senior in duPont Manual High School’s communications/journalism program, has written for the Manual RedEye newspaper and On The Record newsmagazine. Whaley has participated in two other Arts Bureau Edge workshops.