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GSA pursues ways to showcase student work virtually during Covid-19 pandemic

By Gracie Vanover | Arts Bureau Edge Reporter

Floyd Central High School, Class of 2020

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.

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

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.

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“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.

Kentucky Governor's School for the Arts Director Nick Covault during one of his morning welcome sessions. Courtesy Kentucky Performing Arts.

“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.

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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.”

Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts instrumental music students, including rising Hopkinsville High School senior and euphonium player Jared Chance-Martin, performed for healthcare workers as part of community service projects. Courtesy Kentucky Performing Arts.

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.”

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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.

Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts created an online showcase of student work promoted via social media, including Instagram. Among the works is also creative writing, including a poem at the end of this article. Image from Instagram.

“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.”

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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.


The Way I Am

by On'Dria Gibson

2020 Kentucky Governor's School for the Arts, creative writing

Louisville Male High School, Class of 2021 | Arts Bureau Edge alumnus

The way my coils nap, no need to silk like sap.

The way my lips poke as if their being stoked.

How my voice cracks when words are spoke, passion


How the hair on the back of my neck stands when

curiosity lifts my hand.

The way my sideburns grow long, shaving cream

smooths on.

The way I look at my palms as I try to sing the song.

How each bump shoots through my skin, it’s lived in

And turns my day as black as the heads on my chin.

Out of spite, I raise a grin.

Self discovery lies within the gazes in the mirror and

sounds in the room’s echo



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