SOU launches arts insitute for high school students

Southern Oregon University is launching a one-week Young Artists Institute this summer for talented high school writers and artists.

In future years, the university hopes to extend the length of the institute and add other art forms such as theater, dance and music, said Ellie Leonhardt, the new director for the institute.

Members of the local arts and education community hope the institute can eventually become the West Coast version of prestigious programs such as the Iowa Young Writers' Studio.

"Why can't students come here when Ashland offers so much?" asked Leonhardt.

The featured instructor for the July 26 through Aug. 1 institute is former Ashland High School student and Purdue graduate Corey VanLandingham, a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Creative Writing at Stanford University.

"She is the next up-and-coming poet in America and a great role model for young artists," Leonhardt said.

VanLandingham said she is looking forward to returning to Ashland.

"It was such a nurturing community when I was growing up as a young poet," she said. "A lot of my colleagues say they felt discouraged when they were growing up. I felt fostered by the community. I'm really excited to go back to the community that gave a lot to me as a young writer."

High school students will hit the ground running at SOU's institute. The night of their arrival, they will make journals for recording their thoughts and sketches.

VanLandingham will lead a morning forum to give guidance for each day. She hopes to inspire the students with examples of journals and sketchbooks by famous artists.

"Everyone starts with a blank page. It's important to learn how to go from a journal entry to a serious creative work," VanLandingham said.

Students will have access to SOU facilities for writing and art, including studios and the Schneider Museum of Art. They will also take field trips to Crater Lake National Park and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

"On the day trip to Crater Lake, they'll focus on incorporating landscape and the environment into their art and writing," said Ashland High School creative writing, English and social studies teacher Kathi Bowen-Jones, who will be among the instructors at the institute.

Central Medford High School poetry and creative writing teacher Jay Schroder, short story writer and songwriter Vincent "Craig" Wright, artist and SOU Professor Cody Bustamante, print maker and sculptor Kyle Peets, realist painter Sarah Burns and AHS fine art and jewelry-making instructor Sam Scharf will join VanLandingham and Bowen-Jones as instructors this summer.

Students will see art brought to life via playwriting and scenic design when they watch the play "Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land" at OSF, Leonhardt said.

The week will conclude with an art show, poetry slam and readings.

VanLandingham said she expects the students will stay in touch and share their artistic progress with each other long after the week is over.

"It's a rare opportunity to have all these artists together in a creative community," she said.

Applications are accepted as long as there are openings, up until the start of the institute.

The cost is $995 with an extra $20 materials fee for visual art students. Scholarships are available. The application deadline to be given priority for a scholarship is Monday, but applications and scholarship requests will be considered after that day.

To be eligible, students must have completed at least ninth grade as of June and cannot have graduated from high school.

For more information about the institute and to apply, visit

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or Follow her on Twitter at


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