On July 9, 26 high school students representing 13 states will say goodbye after spending three weeks together — three intensive weeks among kindred spirits at Sweet Briar College’s first Blue Ridge Summer Institute for Young Artists.
The residential program was held on the College’s 3,250-acre campus, where in their free time participants could take inspiration from the natural landscape. In addition to daily studio sessions working within their core disciplines — the students chose among creative writing, theater or visual arts — the 26 gathered every evening to work collaboratively across art forms, which is a foundational concept of the program.
BLUR, as it is known, is so called because the curriculum is designed to immerse participants in their own art while collaborating with artists in other fields, blurring boundaries between them to imagine new ways of seeing, thinking and creating. Fostering creativity, in art, but also in problem-solving of all kinds, is another program objective.
“The goal is to energize, educate and entertain young artists,” says Dave Griffith, director of BLUR and an assistant professor of English at Sweet Briar. “But we also want to expand their horizons. They should leave here seeing art and creativity in a completely new and refreshing way.”
BLUR faculty include accomplished professional artists, writers and actors. The students also are working with artists from the neighboring Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and Endstation Theatre Company, which is holding its fourth annual Blue Ridge Summer Theatre Festival while BLUR is under way.
Within the first few days of the program, students told Lynchburg News & Advance reporter Casey Gillis that already they felt part of a shared experience.
“Some of us haven’t been in an environment where the people are like us,” Hannah Rae Bracey, a 16-year-old aspiring writer from Chesterfield, told the paper. “We’re at home, writing, acting and creating art, while other people are sitting in a corner going, ‘Why are you doing that?’ ”
Lasha Banks, 17, of Atlanta, added that while challenging her to try unfamiliar art forms, BLUR provides the “atmosphere to feel safe about trying new things.”
To read Gillis’ story and for more media coverage of the inaugural Blue Ridge Summer Institute for Young Artists, also known as BLUR, please visit these sites:
Young artists find support at Sweet Briar’s BLUR summer program, News & Advance
Sweet Briar College Tackles Creativity Crisis, WVTF Public Radio
Summer Camp at Sweet Briar Uses Unique Form of Teaching, WSET-TV