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Check Out Ada Koch’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ada Koch. 

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I am from the East Coast and grew up in a family with two scientist parents. When I preferred art in high school and got some art scholarships, my folks let me know that art was not a career path, but a hobby……so, being young and flexible, I went to college and got a chemistry degree, then on to Northwestern for an MBA. My first job was selling computers for Hewlett-Packard Company.

Luckily, in 1989, when my husband and I moved to KC, I was able to spend more time learning how to paint (and raising 3 kids). I enrolled and adored taking painting classes at the KC Art Institute but was advised that I didn’t really need another degree -just encouraged to keep making art.  The painting consumed any free time, and when I started selling and teaching art – I felt confident stating that I was indeed an artist. The KC art scene was very welcoming and I was introduced to the KC Artists Coalition that taught me some of the business of art and connected me to the arts community. Once my kids started to go to school, I found a studio (first of many) and let the creative juices flow!

Now, I have a studio in the Livestock Exchange Building in the West Bottoms where I spend almost every day working. I have also been teaching at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art since 2000, have taught at some local schools and art programs, and teach at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, AZ.

My work is mainly mixed media paintings, but recently I have expanded into doing some public art – a large sculpture of poppies for the WWI Museum and Memorial, a painting for Overland Park City Hall, a streetcar design for Art in the Loop, and more. My most recent work involves collaborating with others which has been rewarding in so many ways. I have learned more about the community, learned new artistic techniques, and been challenged to produce much more provocative work. My main collaborative partner has been Glenn North, the Poet Laureate of 18th and Vine. I have also worked with Machine Head, a machine shop specializing in working with crazy fun artists! Last year, I was invited to decorate a ball gown for the KCAC for their annual Coalesce fashion event and began to work with fabrics.

My work is shown in various galleries around town such as Leedy-Voulkos Gallery, Eva Reynolds Fine Arts in Overland Park, The Bunker Center for the Arts down in the CrossRoads, and the KC Artists Coalition. I have work in collections both public and private all over the world. Here in KC, my work is at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Stowers Institute, Overland Park City Hall, and much more.

Because I am an artist, and am always searching for ways to support my work, I also enjoy serving as a juror for art shows, illustrating books, painting commissions, and you name it…. challenging myself to say yes to new opportunities.

In the next few months, I will be having a solo show at the Leedy-Voulkos Gallery (Dec 2021- Feb 2022) entitled “Remix: Love Over War” about violence in the world, then a show at The Bunker Center for the Arts in the Spring of 2022.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Any career is full of struggles both professional and personal, and my life has been no different. Most recently, I had my first major surgery, but I am back in the studio, and now even able to lift more than 10 pounds! My biggest challenge may be not having an arts background from a recognized school, but perhaps that is also what makes me try harder and research techniques more thoroughly. I also feel this gives me an edge when I teach art students since I understand how they may not yet know the basics.

In all my endeavors, I am persistent, coming back, again and again, to make it work. Saying “yes” to crazy opportunities and finding ways to get it done. Applying to art projects that seem impossibly out of reach, but being willing to make it happen.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
Most recently, (in the last 7 years), I have become quite involved with activism art-making work that recognizes the world around us and reacts to that in a way to get the community involved. I started with making poppies, which symbolize hope, for a display at the WWI Museum and Memorial and that has grown so much that now I am often called “the poppy lady” !! But I am excited to be doing work that has relevance to the current culture. I have become involved with other organizations (such as Mothers in Charge with Rosilyn Temple) that help to work to reduce violence in KC and that makes me especially motivated.

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