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Sandy Garrett's Column

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From Will Rogers and Marjorie Tallchief to Carrie Underwood and Kristen Chenoweth, many famous artists have called Oklahoma home.

Oklahoma’s talent is home grown and our classrooms are full of budding young artists waiting to shine in the spotlight of success.

Talented students in the fields of acting, creative writing, ballet, modern dance, orchestra, chorus, photography, drawing/painting, and film/video attend the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute at Quartz Mountain near Lone Grove each summer.

An intensive, two-week residential program gives young Oklahomans the opportunity to study with nationally renowned artists including winners of the Pulitzer Prize and of the Academy, Emmy, Grammy and Tony Awards.

One of the first students to attend the Summer Institute is also one of its most famous alumni, Megan Mullally, known for her recent starring role in the award winning TV show, Will & Grace.

Participants aged 14-18, and a few graduating seniors aged 19, are selected through competitive, statewide auditions. Nearly 1,300 students applied this year, and 268 were accepted. Each receives a full scholarship to the institute worth more than $2,000.

Scholarships are provided by the State Department of Education with funding from the Legislature and matched by private donations secured by the Oklahoma Arts Instituteheaded by a dynamic president, Julie Cohen.The summer institute also receives support from the Oklahoma Arts Council.

These scholarships are an important way to support student artists who have high ambitions.

At the 19th annual State Superintendent’s Awards for Arts Excellence, I had the privilege of honoring recent high school seniors who attended the summer institute.

We honored 109 talented high school seniors from 40 Oklahoma communities in a ceremony at the Scottish Rite Temple in Guthrie. We also recognized school leaders and fine arts teachers.

The State Department of Education, along with the Masonic Fraternity of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Alliance for Arts Education

an affiliate of the Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network, are sponsors of the event.Every year I am inspired by the creativity, passion and talent of the young artists we have in our classrooms. They give me hope for the future, but make me wonder what would happen if there were no arts programs in our schools.

It would be difficult for many of these young people to find creative outlets and to realize the academic benefits. Thankfully, the arts are a key component of Oklahoma’s core curriculum, the Priority Academic Student Skills.

Students of all ages and backgrounds benefit from exposure to the arts. A direct connection between arts participation, higher test scores and student success has been well documented. This has been especially evident in the studies of SAT scores.

We believe the arts are an integral part of a well-rounded education and I urge you to support youth arts in your community!

For information about the State Superintendent’s Awards for Arts Excellence, visit the SDE’s Web site For details concerning the Summer Arts Institute, visit the Oklahoma Arts Institute’s Web site or call (405) 321-9000.

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