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Hardenburger makes mark on art contest

Julia Hardenburger with art

While Hutchinson High School senior Julia Hardenburger didn’t advance to the second round of the first-ever Live Art competition for students in Wichita on Friday (Sept. 23, 2016), what happened next is something she’ll forever remember.

“I wasn’t able to go on to the finals,” Hardenburger said. “But my painting was well received by the audience and caught the attention of Liz Koch, who I was honored to meet.”

Mrs. Koch was interested in the work Hardenburger had just competed on stage in the 20-minute timed Live Art Battle event at Mark Arts, which formerly was known as the Wichita Center for the Arts in Wichita.

The Koch family paid $1,000 for Hardenburger’s painting of a boy’s face. Although, the money did not go to her, the senior was happy that it contribute to the funding of building the new Mary R. Koch Art Center, which will help generate community involvement with the arts and support both emerging and established artists in the future. Her artwork will be hung in the Koch Industries headquarters in Wichita.

It was a capstone experience in a week that may chart Hardenburger’s life for the next few years.

Hardenburger, student of HHS 3-D art teacher Debra Ringler and International Baccalaureate art instructor Darren Morawitz, specializes in three-dimensional pieces of art. In the 2015-16 Scholastic Art competition, which also was held at Mark Arts, Hardenburger’s sculpture, “Between Two Lungs There Was Release” was a Gold Key winner. She will enter the Scholastic awards again this year with new artworks as well as a professional portfolio.

To her, a blank canvas for two-dimensional art was “scary.”

“Ms. Ringler pushed me into the competition,” Hardenburger said. “... I was terrified of painting before, staring at that white canvas.”

Even as a 3-D art teacher, Ringler knew the potential of the HHS senior on canvas.

“As art teachers, we enjoy teaching our students the basics of art,” Ringler said. “It is so satisfying to watch them grow. We also work to challenge them to face their fears. We push the students to spread their wings and fly. It is very rewarding to watch Julia grow.”     

Hardenburger is in a full diploma candidate for the International Baccalaureate Career Program at HHS. The Career Program is a framework of international education that incorporates the values of IB into a unique program addressing the needs of students engaged in career-related education.

For Hardenburger, the question of her next step after high school was answered in the week ahead of the Live Art Battle. Hardenburger was accepted into the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Ga., where she will major in fashion design.

The Live Art Battle competition was a first for Hardenburger as well as the other 10 entrants from across the state. For the first time in Kansas, scholastic art became a real-time competitive event. Students battled against each other on a stage with lights, music, a timer and an audience. They had 20 minutes to complete their artwork.

Hardenburger had practiced on two separate paintings in the weeks leading up to the event – a boy and a girl. As with any competition, Hardenburger had a game plan of creating the different aspects of the paintings and the time management for how long each portion would take.

In the preliminary round, she picked the boy and was planning on creating her young girl’s portrait in the finals. It was an adrenalin-boosting experience to be on stage in the competition.

“I was just so emotionally exhausted when it was over,” she said. “I was disappointed not to get to go to the next round and then this happened. I got to meet Liz Koch and my artwork will hang in Koch Industries.

“It was odd that my first sale was in 2-D art when I’ve always done 3-D art. Now people have approached me for commissioned paintings – two so far.”

Ringler said they are thankful that Polly Gentry and Katy Dorrah, executive director of Mark Arts, developed this event. “It was a fabulous experience for all students involved.”