Owasson Anthony Cammuso participating in OSAI’s orchestra category while social distancing. Courtesy photo

Nearly 270 young artists across Oklahoma — including 10 from Owasso — spent a week studying with internationally renowned faculty and celebrity guest artists at the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute (see PHOTO gallery).

The attendees were selected from over 1,000 applicants during a competitive statewide audition process last winter, and they studied one of eight artistic disciplines: acting, chorus, creative writing, dance, drawing and painting, film and video, orchestra and photography.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, OSAI could not be held at Quartz Mountain this year. However, the organization created a robust online program, OSAI at Home, where students took on masterclasses with artist-educators in their fields, workshopping and critiques, one-on-one lessons, and opportunities to build community with other young artists.

The Owasso students who attended OSAI at Home are: Niara Kwanza (chorus), Gabby Merten and Paige Smith (creative writing) and Jaden Da Rosa (photography), as well as Aidan Andreoli, Hayden Brown, Anthony Cammuso, Eli Hall, William McCoy and Reagan Yost (orchestra).

While working from home provided challenges to students and faculty alike, they found that the spirit of community and collaboration could, in fact, exist online.

“It’s amazing to see other students my age that are just as passionate about the arts as I am,” Kwanza said. “It’s very encouraging and nurturing to surround myself with so many gifted people.”

Smith added, “One of the most important things I’ve learned while at OSAI on an artistic level is how to make words sing. I’ve written before, but the prompts given forced me to write in a way I hadn’t had to before, which was very much needed.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister commended the Oklahoma Arts Institute’s innovative online program.

“OAI’s pivot to an online Summer Arts Institute has proven that where there’s a will, there’s a way,” Hofmeister said. “As a result, students across the state were able to learn and create under the tutelage of exceptional instructors and guest artists.”