LONE WOLF - Two hundred seventy-five Oklahoma high school students arrived at Quartz Mountain Arts and Conference Center over the weekend as the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute (OSAI) opened its doors for this year's summer session.
More than 1,000 high school students across the state auditioned for the prestigious slots. This year's selectees will attend on full scholarship, worth more than $2,000 each, including nine Altus High School students: Keaton Hasty, Katie Wilmes, Adam Greenlee, Brigham Mosely, Evan Mustard, Erin Johnson, Samantha Mason, Alison McMahan and Jared Speer will study under nationally recognized artists in this summer's program and will perform and exhibit their artwork at the OSAI conclusion on Saturday, June 25. Nine Lawton students were selected for the program, as were eight homeschooled students from across the state.
"We bring in the best people we can," said Annina Collier, director of public relations for the OAI and a three-time alumnae of the OSAI as a percussionist. "Due to the nature of our programs, these kids have the opportunity to study with these high-caliber artists right in our own back yard."
This year's 39 instructors include Mike Randleman, an actor who recently made his 160th appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno"; Pulitzer Prize nominee and poet Bryan D. Dietrich; Deanna McBrearty of the New York City Ballet; and photojournalist Paul Taggart, who was kidnapped last October while working in Iraq and later released. Both Dietrich and Taggart are OSAI alums.
There are no slackers attending OSAI. Collier said the application process alone is a strenuous undertaking, and the program itself packs a full 15-hour day into its two-week schedule. The students begin at 7 a.m. with their choice of a Pilates or Feldendrais exercise class; afterwards, they eat breakfast and then meet for their morning classes in their chosen disciplines of ballet, modern dance, orchestral music, choral music, drawing and painting, photography, acting, creative writing or film and video; the students break for lunch and then have the option to attend another exercise session; students then attend a dance class before returning to their chosen discipline; after dinner, the students may choose to attend one of two 'Conversation with the Artists,' where the instructors lecture about their work, followed by an evening performance or presentation; the students return to their rooms for cabin meetings, and 11 p.m. is 'lights out.'
"All of this gives them a broader, more general vision of the arts, and they come away more well-rounded," Collier said. "These are professional kids ready to go out into the world and make their mark."
Quartz Mountain Arts and Conference Center has been home to the Oklahoma Arts Institute since 1978. In 1995, a fire destroyed the Quartz Mountain Lodge, including the library and some of the art collection. The lodge was rebuilt along with what is today's Quartz Mountain Arts and Conference Center, and works by previous OSAI students are on display at the lodge. Quartz Mountain State Park is former ceremonial grounds for Kiowa, Comanche, Wichita, Apache and Caddo tribes.
The OAI is funded by private donors with matching funds from the Oklahoma State Department of Education and additional support from the Oklahoma Arts Council and the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation. The OAI hosts two programs at Quartz Mountain, OSAI and the Oklahoma Fall Arts Institute (OFAI), a series of four-day workshop retreats for amateur and professional artists, public school teachers and college and university instructors that typically draws nationwide participants. Oklahoma public school teachers automatically receive full scholarships to OFAI including tuition and room and board.
"The fall workshops are true beginner-to-advanced, so there's something for everyone," Collier said. "The teachers inspire the students, and the students inspire the teachers. The teachers bring back very specific ideas that they can apply in the classroom."
The two weeks of OSAI instruction culminate June 24 and June 25 in on-stage performances and exhibitions of student works, and the general public is invited to attend. Called the "ONSTAGE" weekend, the student photography, drawings and paintings will be on display, and cover artwork for next year's publications will be announced. Friday evening the ballet, modern dance and acting students will perform in the Twin Peaks Performance Hall, and performances will continue Saturday with chorus and orchestra concerts, creative writing performances and film screenings. The public is invited to attend free of charge.
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