Story provided by Lauren Boettcher, Lakota Media and Community Relations
ABBY KOCH’S PORTFOLIO OF WORK
Lakota West senior Abby Koch (pronounced “cook”) spent her only snow day in the last two school years working on a project for her AP Art class. That’s at least one explanation for her being named this year’s Cincinnati Overture Award winner for Visual Arts.
“It’s an incredible honor,” said Lakota West art teacher Stephanie Gauer. “By giving her the award, the Cincinnati Arts Association is basically saying Abby is the best Visual Arts student in the entire Greater Cincinnati region. That says a lot.”
The Overture Awards Scholarship Competition is currently the region’s largest solo arts competition for high school students (grades 9-12). The Scholarship Competition rewards artistic excellence in six disciplines: Creative Writing, Dance, Instrumental Music, Theater, Visual Art and Vocal Music. The Overture Awards Program recruits judges for the competition from the professional arts community.
Gauer points out a distinguishing characteristic of this particular competition not shared by many others: Students were required to submit an entire portfolio of work. “In other words, Abby didn’t win with just one great piece. She won with eight great pieces.”
Many of the pieces in her winning portfolio were part of that concentration area, including such titles as “Pride,” Struggle” and “Wrath.” More often than not, the final product was reached by way of an elaborate photo shoot Abby set up to help replicate the end result she envisioned. Creating such still photographs from which to paint or draw has become a method Abby’s adopted with most of her pieces and one that Gauer commends.
“She’s both the artist and the art director,” said Gauer, noting the more than 50 photographs Abby will take before even putting paint to canvas. “She truly understands the amount of time and effort that must go into creating a great work. More than 50 percent of the work is finished before she even sits down to start on the piece.
“Even good student artists don’t know how hard they have to work to be successful, but that’s what sets Abby apart from the rest.”
Interestingly, Abby’s talent didn’t extend from a child prodigy story or even a long line of family artists. Abby’s mom, Georgianne, admits the art gene skipped several generations to reach Abby and even then, she didn’t discover it until taking Fine Art I during her freshman year at Lakota West.
Art is not the only passion that’s made Abby’s high school experience at Lakota West whole. She’s also discovered a knack for the theater. Her latest role was a split one in which she served as both a student director and played the role of the mayor in the school’s latest production, “All Shook Up.”
“I really like taking what I do in theater and bringing it into my art,” said Abby, laughing about all the theater friends she’s wrangled into participating in one of her photo shoots. Gauer also agrees that her interests are mutually beneficial, noting that her art wouldn’t be as “alive” as they are without the influence of her theater background.
“My students’ objective needs to be to make me say ‘wow’ and more often than not, Abby does that,” Gauer said. “It’s never just a pretty picture. She spends hours and hours perfecting every detail and the result is an absolutely gorgeous piece with so much detail that you can’t help but stare at it for hours and hours.”
Besides the Overture Award, Abby also received eight Gold Keys, two Silver and an Honorable Mention in the region’s Scholastic Art Competition. She also has two pieces featured in the Ohio Governor’s Show.
Abby and the other three Visual Arts finalists in the Overture competition had their portfolios on display at the Weston Gallery next to the Aronoff Center February 25 through March 2. As both a finalist and winner, Abby received a combined $3,000 in scholarships to use at her school of choice.
The golden question, of course, is where that will be. As of now, Abby lists Columbia College of Chicago as one of her top picks. But one thing’s for certain – her major will somehow combine art and theater. After all, according to Abby, life would be “boring” without both.