The Governor's School for the Arts is a center for innovation that develops excellence, nurtures creativity, inspires artistic vision and builds communities with a passion for the arts.

The Governor's School for the Arts (GSA) offers premiere arts training in Hampton Roads in six departments:  Dance, Instrumental Music, Musical Theatre, Theater & Film, Visual Arts and Vocal Music.  Each department trains students to develop in their art form with a focus on conservatory style study.  Transportation is provided to GSA by the local school divisions. The school serves the school divisions of Chesapeake, Franklin, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Isle of Wight, Southampton, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach. There is no tuition fee for students to participate. Students may earn three credits for each year they attend GSA. Admission to GSA is by audition. Any student in grades 8 -11 is eligible to apply. Applicants provide an application, teacher recommendations and permission from their high school principal. To attend GSA, the student must be enrolled in a public high school in one of the eight participating school divisions.

Each department at GSA is tailored to meet the demanding needs of each art form.  The unique nature of the School provides a variety of arts experiences in both traditional and non-traditional environments.  Each department creates a season of performances and exhibitions open to the public, and are held in professional theaters and galleries. Over 50 productions and exhibitions are presented yearly.  The performance and exhibition experience is conducted in a professional atmosphere where students learn the real-life workings of on-stage, backstage, and gallery life.

Goals supporting the mission are to:

  • Prepare students to engage the arts thoughtfully and creatively while becoming life-long learners and advocates of the arts.

  • Offer instruction through classes, performances, and in cross-disciplinary
opportunities by a faculty of professional instructors, artists, and mentors.

  • Provide exceptional performance and exhibition experiences in state-of-the-art

  • Prepare and inspire students to meet the most rigorous admission requirements
of colleges, universities, conservatories, internships and other career

  • Encourage and provide opportunities for students to use their talents in service
to others.

  • Create relationships with educational organizations and partnerships with arts
organizations and the community at large.

  • Build audiences to appreciate and enjoy the arts within the community.


In the early eighties regional Governor’s Schools were being developed as a strategy to promote statewide education excellence.   During the administration of Governor Charles Robb, (1982- 1986), Governor’s Schools were established to bring together exceptionally talented and motivated students, and provide them with opportunities to study in a concentrated and intensive environment. Louise Lowenthal, a Virginia Beach art teacher, spearheaded the development of the first Governor’s School for the Arts during the summers of 1985 and 1986, when a six -week pilot program for the school took place on the campus of Old Dominion University. The emphasis of Governor’s Schools was placed on high expectations and innovative curriculum. The school became a full time program in 1987.