A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Commentary: Arts education can have transformational impact on Kentucky’s future

By John Roush and Kim Baker
Special to KyForward

As 256 bright and talented high school students from 47 counties gather at Centre College in Danville for the 30th annual Kentucky Center Governor’s School for the Arts, we couldn’t be more proud about our fourth year as partners in this three-week intensive arts program. And the reason is simple: the ripple effects this transformative educational experience has beyond the aspiring artists themselves continue to be impressive and profound.

GSA has become a highly desirable opportunity for high school students across the state, with more than 1,400 applications for these spots. And during the last three decades, GSA has touched each of Kentucky’s 120 counties.

While students focus their studies in the areas of architecture and design, creative writing, dance, drama, instrumental music, musical theater, film and photography, visual art or vocal music, the process of exploration and discovery that occurs during GSA extends far beyond.

Once they head home, this year’s 256 graduates will join more than 5,700 GSA alumni. And they will soon come to find that their experiences will open doors not only to collegiate studies and professional careers in the arts but also to traditionally non-artistic endeavors, demonstrating that the skills they acquire have broad application.

This is because GSA is more than just about the arts.

GSA also provides students the opportunity to develop the analytical and critical thinking skills that are in high demand by employers and important in any line of work or career. Students engage in service opportunities as a part of the program as well, through which they come to appreciate firsthand the importance of giving back to their community.

The arts also have a significant economic impact.

For instance, the recent “Imagine Greater Louisville 2020” report utilized the Americans for the Arts Calculator and estimated that the arts and culture sector generates $326 million in economic activity in Greater Louisville alone. An estimated 6 million Louisville residents and visitors attend arts and cultural events annually.

Multiply this effect to include communities across the commonwealth, and it’s clear that the arts are an important part of our fabric.

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life,” Pablo Picasso once said, and we are better and stronger because of it. The last three decades have also shown that it keeps the wind in our sails, fostering a vibrant economy and a strong Kentucky workforce.

So as we celebrate GSA’s 30th anniversary, we appreciate what a profound impact it has had and will continue to have on our future, and are grateful for the continued investment in the arts and education that it represents.

To learn more about the Governor’s School for the Arts, please visit www.kentuckygsa.org.

Kim Baker is president of the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. John A. Roush is president of Centre College in Danville.

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