Since 1999, the SC Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities has served artistically talented students who have been recognized nationally by organizations such as YoungArts, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, Youth America Grand Prix, Music Teachers National Association, and U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts. Graduates receive millions of dollars in scholarship offers to attend the nation’s top colleges, universities, and conservatories and become innovators and leaders in the arts, technology, education, business, health care and other fields. Esteemed alumni include South Carolina Teachers of the Year, Tony and Grammy Award winners, Emmy nominees, and a Webby Award winner. This is all possible thanks to the unique mission and vision established by the Governor's School's founders.
Here is how this model for public and arts education got its start…
A Music Teacher's Vision
As a well-known music teacher in Greenville, South Carolina, Virginia Uldrick saw a need for immersive arts training for the state’s talented students. With her vision, leadership, and team of advocates, the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts was established as a summer program in 1980 by an executive order issued by Governor Richard Riley. Held on the campus of Furman University, the five-week residential summer program was designed to train and educate highly talented high school students in a non-traditional arts conservatory.
The success of this summer program validated Uldrick’s vision for a year-round education with a focus on the arts. Thus began extensive research to support this huge undertaking. In 1995, the school's leadership presented a bill to the state legislature which was overwhelmingly approved in 1996. Governor Carroll Campbell appointed a Legislative Study Committee, chaired by Senator J. Verne Smith, who was tasked to determine whether the state could afford to build the school, identify students for attendance, and develop a plan to ensure that the state's artistically talented students would have the opportunity to attend the school, regardless of background or socioeconomic status.
The state committed $12 million to the creation of the residential high school, which would need to be matched by supporters. Co-chaired by Mary Rainey Belser and Minor Mickel Shaw, a capital campaign raised over $14.5 million, ensuring the state's $12 million and bringing the dream and vision of the residential high school closer to reality.
Building a Residential High School for Young Artists
Uldrick, the high school's first president, and the school's Board of Directors, appointed by Governor Campbell, began building the masterpiece that is now the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities. They engaged a team of state and national leaders in education and the arts, chaired by the dean of the distinguished Yale University Music School Dr. Robert Blocker. Together with faculty, the team created the mission and pre-professional arts curricula based on a classical, master-apprentice training model in creative writing, dance, drama, music and visual arts.
The campus in downtown Greenville, named in honor of Uldrick and designed to emulate a Tuscan village, opened its doors to an inaugural class of high school juniors from all over the state in the fall of 1999. In addition to rigorous pre-professional arts training, students receive an intense and innovative academic education that fosters connections to the arts while meeting all the requirements necessary for a South Carolina high school diploma.