When it comes to 2020 Switzerland County graduate Allison Furnish, she’s earning straight A’s.
Travel up Ferry Street towards Vevay Hill and you’ll see Ally’s artwork gracing the side of her mother’s tax service building.
Continue north and go through Mt. Sterling, and you’ll see more of her work covering the side of her grandparent’s barn.
Quickly look to the west and you’ll see the work she’s started on her grandfather’s cattle trailer.
There’s a lot of flowers, all brightly colored and reaching to the sun — you might even say that for Ally, it’s all coming up roses.
Add to all of that talent that she was a three-sport athlete at Switzerland County High School, earning conference and sectional recognitions in volleyball, swim, and track — and then throw in that she’s the 2020 Class Valedictorian, and is working on her speech for the July 18th graduation.
And all of it has been done under the umbrella of COVID-19, which derailed the senior year for Ally and her classmates.
But it is her artistic talent that is most visible to county residents and travelers.
“I’ve been doing drawing and paintings and stuff since middle school,” she said, fresh from a day of errands and getting the oil changed in her car. “I got really into it during my sophomore year and through my junior year, as well. It’s always been a way to relieve stress and relax, I guess.”
The mural on her mom’s office, which graces the north side of the building, was the first one Ally had ever attempted.
“When she bought the building, I told her that I’d be doing the mural,” Ally says with a laugh. “I didn’t really have an idea about what I was going to do. So the last part of last summer, I was like, ‘Okay. I’m doing it and not holding back, I just have to do it.’”
Ally said that she first formulated an idea about what she wanted to do. She said that she’s always drawn roses and other flowers, so since that had been the focus of her artwork to that point, it seemed like the nature topic for the mural.
“I actually went on a trip to Florida, and I spent all the time just sketching on the tablet just ideas and then showing her (mom Stephanie) what I wanted to do,” Ally said. “And then, I sketched on my sketchbook, and then used chalk to outline it on the actual wall, so I could find what I wanted.”
So is it hard to be so close to the wall, and still see the “big picture” of how the finished piece is going to look?
“Oh yes,” she said. “Most of the time I had to take steps back just to make sure it is what I wanted. I had to make a bunch of changes to get it to what I wanted it to be.”
With the mural on her mom’s office complete, Ally turned her attentions to her grandfather’s barn, which she started in late February of this year, and is still designing and working to complete it.
“I started on the one side with the roses, and then I moved over to the sunflower,” All said. “I told my grandparents that I was going to do the front side, eventually, so I just started working on it and it’s been a work in progress ever since.”
Grandparents Bobby and Barbara Leap have been supportive of their granddaughter’s talents and vision.
“My Papaw had actually asked me to do that,” she laughs. “He just wanted flowers on his trailer, so I said, ‘Okay, I can do that’.”
After she finishes the front portion of her grandparent’s barn, which she hoped to wrap up in the coming weeks, Ally then plans on returning to Vevay for a mural on the south side of her mother’s building — this one focused on sunflowers.
“I also have two family friends who are wanting me to spray paint their barns, as well,” Ally says. “But nothing big. Nothing like my grandparent’s barn.”
Ally’s mural medium of choice is spray paint — another new adventure.
“My mom’s mural was actually the first time I’ve ever messed with spray paint — I’ve never messed with it before in my life; so my mom was taking a big leap of faith with me, I guess; but I told her that I’d keep working on it no matter how long it took for me to make it look right.”
For smaller works, Ally’s medium of choice is acrylics, noting that she has a “bunch” of smaller paintings at home.
So all of this artistic work would be enough to wear most people out; but Ally Furnish is not “most people.”
How does she work all of this into a schedule already filled with sports, activities, and schoolwork?
“I guess it helped a lot with quarantine, that I had a lot of free time,” she said. “During quarantine, all the time, I was painting constantly, that’s all I did all day. It really is hard to paint and actually do a lot of paintings when I’m also managing three sports, a bunch of clubs during school. Painting is one of my hobbies that I don’t feel like I have to do all the time. I can do it when I need something to calm myself down.”
And if there’s not enough activity filling her day, Ally says she’s been taking up skateboarding recently, and is also using her new found free time to hang out with her friends.
The recipient of the coveted Paul Ogle Scholarship, Ally will head to Purdue University in the fall to study computer science, and is also considering a minor in digital design or computer animation — something dealing with art.
Her career goals? She’s not sure, but she does know that it will involve helping others.
“I kind of hope to have a career that lets me help people and have a bigger impact on the work than just sitting at a desk,” she says.