by Kate Evans
Berkeley Springs High School rising junior Elizabeth (Ella) Kessel spent three weeks at the West Virginia Governor’s School for the Arts at Marshall University studying art. This year’s Governor’s School for the Arts was from June 25 to July 15.
The Governor’s School for the Arts gives rising high school juniors the chance to work in a close-knit community with accomplished artists and to develop professional and personal relationships with other talented West Virginian student artists, according to their website.
Last year as a Berkeley Springs High School sophomore Kessel took Advanced Placement (AP) Art. Freshman year she had Art 1. Kessel also had her art works displayed at the Ice House.
She studied Studio Art at the Governor’s School for the Arts — primarily painting, Kessel said. All of the instructors are working artists in their field and had connections with Marshall University. Kessel’s instructor was Sassa Wilkes.
The Governor’s School for the Arts took place on the Marshall University campus. They stayed in the freshman dorms and traveled a few blocks away to Huntington for the studio art classes. They also went to Columbus, Ohio to see the Columbus Art Museum for a day, Kessel said.
Kessel said that she had done some painting occasionally before, but not much of it. In the classes they went over the basics. She said that the studio art classes at Marshall University really taught her to paint better.
“I wasn’t really comfortable before,” Kessel said.
Kessel said she’s been doing art since she was really little and has done the usual art forms-painting and digital art. She first heard about the Governor’s School for the Arts through her high school art teacher Pam Didawick.
Kessel said she had to submit an art portfolio, write an essay and get recommendations to be accepted for the Governor’s school. She also had to send in her GPA and attendance information along with a signed recommendation from her principal.
At her art classes, Kessel and other students did a portrait series. Kessel created a portrait of artist Frida Kahlo as one of her works.
Kessel also painted an individual mural of a musician playing a guitar that will be placed on the West Edge Factory building in Huntington in the fall, along with other individual murals that students created.
The factory building is being refurbished into an art space, she said. Students were encouraged to make their individual murals about art.
Each day at the Governor’s School for the Arts went from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. The schedule was breakfast, art studio, lunch break, art studio, dinner and then an interdisciplinary block, she said.
In the interdisciplinary block, students gathered with other students from different disciplines and learned about different art forms as a group. They tried out acting, dancing, creative writing, vocal music and instrumental music, Kessel said.
“It was a way for us to explore or pursue different arts that we wouldn’t have access to or want to pursue. I really enjoyed dancing. All of them were fun –just to try out different things,” she said.
In the interdisciplinary block, students also designed t-shirts. Kessel’s t-shirt design won the competition.
Around 20 students were enrolled in the studio art discipline and about 80 total students were in the Governor’s School for the Arts this year, she said.
Splitting into different groups that had people from different disciplines encouraged students to meet new people, Kessel said. Everyone that attended was from different parts of West Virginia.
At the end, a gallery show of student art with their mural pieces and individual art works was put on display at the Carroll Gallery in the Marshall University Visual Arts Building. Creative writing students presented their works for groups that came through the gallery.
Enjoyed the class
Kessel said she really liked the studio art class and being taught by a local artist in Huntington. She also really enjoyed being with other people who enjoy the arts. Kessel made a lot of friends and connections at the Governor’s School for the Arts.
She said she would definitely recommend the Governor’s School for the Arts to other high school students. It’s free and you learn so much about art, she said.
“It made pursuing art as a career seem more attainable. Also, you got to live in the dorms for a couple weeks and learn about how college is,” Kessel said.