Stage & Dance

Centre College to host Governor's School for the Arts starting in 2014

Darci Davis played the marimba at rehearsals on Friday at Transylvania.
Darci Davis played the marimba at rehearsals on Friday at Transylvania. Herald-Leader

Centre College officials say they couldn't be happier as the future home of the Governor's School for the Arts.

Gov. Steve Beshear, and leaders from the college and the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, made it official Tuesday: The annual summer session for rising high school seniors will move to the Danville campus next summer.

The Governor's School, which began in 1987, provides participants with intensive training in the arts, including music, dance, theater, visual arts and architecture. For 14 summers, it had been held at Transylvania University in Lexington.

"We know that the program will continue to enhance the education of our young artists-in-training across a range of arts disciplines," Beshear said in a news release.

Colleges and universities bid every three years to host the school, run by the Kentucky Center in Louisville, which hosts more than 200 students.

Transylvania did not bid for upcoming summers. The university is focusing on becoming a year-round school, Marc Mathews, vice president for finance and business at Transylvania, told the Herald-Leader in July.

Centre and Morehead State University were the only institutions to bid on the Governor's School this time. Centre will host it through 2017, with the first edition in Danville from June 22 to July 12.

Centre's president, John Roush, said hosting the Governor's School continues the school's tradition of supporting and promoting the arts.

"The Governor's School for the Arts is a way for us to gain from but also give back to the commonwealth," Roush said Tuesday afternoon. "If we're going to have this program, it ought to be at the institution with the richest history for promoting the arts."

Centre boasts several venues that are recognized nationally, including the Norton Center for the Arts, which has a record for presenting performers, including the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and cellist Yo-Yo Ma, that wouldn't normally be expected at a small, Southern liberal arts college. And it has boasted internationally recognized faculty, including recently retired trumpet professor Vince DiMartino and glass artist Stephen Rolfe Powell.

Centre dramatic arts department chair Matthew Hallock, who will be the college's liaison to GSA, said the arts faculty is thrilled at the prospect of having the school on campus.

"A young person's first taste of any kind of college becomes their image of what 'college' is," Hallock said Tuesday afternoon. "If working in the studios, and workshops and rehearsal halls and stages and concert facilities of Centre College become the standard by which they evaluate other schools that they are going to look at, we feel confident that puts us in a strong position to be a muscular recruiter of those very strong kids."

For many years, Centre hosted the annual Governor's Scholars Program, a similar program geared toward academically gifted rising high school seniors. Its last year as a site for the scholars program was 2012.

Roush said he missed having the Governor's Scholars students on campus this summer, which made him all the more committed to bringing in Governor's School for the Arts and raising the standard for the program.

Carrie Nath, executive director of the Governor's School for the Arts, said Centre's history with the Governor's Scholars Program strengthened its bid to host the arts program.

"There are many similarities between our programs, so clearly Centre understands the needs of a program such as ours," Nath said. "Gifted and talented students are a very specific population with incredibly creative minds, and they're innovators and they come in with a lot of energy and everything that teenagers possess."

Hallock said, "We have an infrastructure in place from having been a GSP host. ... So we just didn't blink when asking if this is the right thing to do for us."

Nath said the location should not affect the school's ability to take field trips to see artists and institutions in Lexington and Louisville, especially considering recent improvements to roads leading to Danville. She and Hallock said the location creates new opportunities. For example, theater students will be able to work with and see shows at Pioneer Playhouse in Danville, or creative writing students can meet writers Maurice Manning and Frank X Walker, who live in the area and have expressed a desire to work with GSA.

"It will be a challenge," Nath said of moving to a new home campus, "but it is also exciting to have so many new possibilities."

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