Seven SCGSAH students recognized in YoungArts competition

Christina Vandiver

Each year the National YoungArts Foundation holds one of the largest student art competitions highlighting promising young artists, ages 15-18, in the literary, visual, design and performing arts from around the country. This year, seven students from the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities were selected as winners from an applicant pool of over 7,400 nationally.

The Governor’s School students who placed include Isaiah Boozer, theater finalist; Tyler Wesley, theater finalist; Grace Warren-Page, honorable mention for creative nonfiction; Alexa Smith, theater merit; Jaden McGuire, visual arts merit; Katherine Davis, creative nonfiction merit, and Felix Killingsworth, poetry merit.

"YoungArts empowers artists to pursue a life in the arts beginning at the critical time when many are faced with decisions about life after high school,” said Executive Director Jewel Malone. “This group of extraordinary artists has reminded us yet again that extraordinary artistry is ageless, and I encourage everyone to get to know these faces and names as we will be seeing them for many years to come." 

This year, YoungArts award winners at all levels will receive cash prizes between $100 and $10,000 and the opportunity to learn from leading artists such as Debbie Allen, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Frank Gehry, Wynton Marsalis, Salman Rushdie and Mickalene Thomas. YoungArts winners also become part of an alumni network of over 20,000 artists, which offers them additional professional opportunities throughout their careers.

Finalists Boozer and Wesley attended the virtual National YoungArts Week+ where they participated in classes and workshops with internationally recognized leaders in their field. They will also be featured in the National YoungArts Week Jazz and Theater Performance on January 26. 

Through their participation in YoungArts, both Boozer and Wesley have also been nominated to become a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts, one of the highest honors given to high school seniors bestowed by the President of the United States. Ten Governor’s School alumni have received this prestigious honor. This year's honorees will be announced in May.

“For high-schoolers in the arts, YoungArts is the competitive summit for performing arts,” said Daniel Murray, Governor’s School drama department chair. “These students have made the elite selection, and join peers from storied schools like The LA County School of the Arts and Laguardia High School of the Arts in NYC. We're immensely proud of these students and inspired by the hope this ignites in their peers. We celebrate these accomplishments, their teachers, and families, and we're grateful that YoungArts has pressed on and provided this golden opportunity in the most challenging of eras.”

YoungArts alumni represent a dynamic group of artists including actors Viola Davis and Kerry Washington; Academy Award-winning screenwriter and director John Ridley; Tony Award winner Billy Porter; president and chief executive officer of the Music Center in Los Angeles Rachel Moore; recording artists Josh Groban, Judith Hill and Chris Young; musicians Terence Blanchard and Jennifer Koh; choreographer Desmond Richardson; writers Jenny Lee and Sam Lipsyte; internationally acclaimed artists Doug Aitken and Daniel Arsham, and many more.

“To be placed among other highly talented actors like Viola Davis and Kerry Washington is so gratifying towards my work,” said Wesley. “Those are people who use their art to speak out about inequalities and injustices that exist in the world today. Those are people who are foundational in how I’ve shaped my artistry, and for YoungArts to see even a glimpse of that in my art means the world.”

Boozer is an aspiring director and playwright. “I will be an artist who seeks to attempt to live a life full of the arts and theatre, but if I only had one choice, my life would be spent in the theatre as a playwright,” said Boozer.

The Governor’s School’s residential high school drama program, which has now yielded 12 YoungArts finalists, serves juniors and seniors from across South Carolina who are selected based on an application and audition process. The tuition-free program provides pre-professional training in acting, voice, singing, movement, dance and technical theatre. Alumni have attended the top university and conservatory theatre programs in the country and include “Orange is the New Black” star Danielle Brooks, “God Friended Me” actor Brandon Micheal Hall, Tony Award-winner Patina Miller, and “Chicago Fire” actress Liza Bennett. Learn more about the Governor’s School at