Though many would consider NASCAR to be the stereotypical motorsport of the southern United States, the residents of Green County in Kentucky have a different opinion. For them, the only event which harnesses the power of hot-engines, roaring exhaust pipes, and good-hearted competition is tractor pulling. Born from the boasts of proud farmers, tractor pulling began as rural contests of strength between two teams of workhorses. However, with the invention of the tractor in 1929, motorized vehicles were soon put to use. Today, the sport sees competitions all around the world with multiple divisions in each gathering. Despite the speed shown in NASCAR, tractor pulling maintains its reputation as the most powerful motorsport, due to the use of modified, multi-engine tractors.
Three weeks ago, the town of Danville, Kentucky played host to over 250 of the state's most artistic minds. Each year, the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts runs the Governor's School for the Arts; an intensive, three week, art program for gifted high-school students entering their junior or senior year. Begun in 1987, this program seeks to provide quality arts instruction to promising youths and equip them with the ability to find careers in their respective art forms. From dance to visual art to instrumental music, almost all forms of artistic expression are represented and each category has its own set of qualified instructors. Paid for by contributions from generous donors and money from the state, the program is entirely free for all students and provides scholarship opportunities for many colleges in-state. But most importantly, GSA seeks to bring art, expression, and their respective influences to communities all over the Commonwealth.
This summer, I was given the pleasure of documenting the Visual Art students for the entire three weeks. In this time, I came to know many of the students and their artistic backgrounds. I saw vague creative notions take shape and eventually manifest themselves on canvases, printing plates, and clay. It was a three weeks filled with a creative energy that can be found in very few places in Kentucky, especially as a high school student. When asked about opportunities for creativity in their schools, many students spoke of an educational environment where art held little value. Several stated that GSA was the first formal, artistic instruction they had received. Many students said GSA changed the way they viewed their futures in college and in their prospective careers. And finally, when it came time to leave, the students went home as different people. True, they all looked the same as when they arrived (albeit some a bit more ink-stained), all went home with a mission handed down from the Executive Director, Carrie Nath. A mission meant to stick with them for the rest of their lives. A mission to be carried out in their towns, schools, and yes Dan, even in their communities. A mission to change the Commonwealth.
"Go forth, and make great art."