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Art Student Wins $5,000 Prize in Opera Poster Contest

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When Ash Coughlin first came to Cal State Fullerton four years ago, she had one goal: to draw comics. She loved reading DC comic books and drawing, so art seemed like a natural fit.

Enrolling in a variety of studio and art history courses, the senior’s aspirations have since expanded into “wanting to do anything art related that I can get my hands on.”

With a concentration in illustration, Coughlin recently won first place and a $5,000 prize in the GRoW @ Annenberg Poster Contest for her Art Nouveau-inspired poster of LA Opera’s “The Marriage of Figaro.” Though the opera was canceled this year, the contest continued — attracting artwork from hundreds of students from colleges across Los Angeles.

The Marriage of Figaro poster

“The Marriage of Figaro” poster

“The Art Nouveau style was being introduced in one of my art courses, so I felt it was a perfect opportunity to capture such a fluid, detailed and colorful style for an opera,” said Coughlin, who illustrated the poster in Adobe Photoshop over a six-hour period of time.

She credits the university’s rigorous art curriculum for helping her hone her craft. “My classes have really been helping me expand my creativity and skill,” she said.

“When I first received the news that I won, I was in honest shock,” shared Coughlin. “I’ve been pushing myself to study my craft more and more, so it gave me hope knowing hard work pays off.”

The award also filled her with hope amid a deluge of stories about the current global health crisis and widespread social and political unrest.

“Art is essential because you don’t have to use words to be understood,” explained Coughlin. “It’s very universal in that sense.

“Additionally, art has always reflected the current culture. In this time of unrest, where would we be if we still weren’t creating things and if people weren’t telling their stories? Now, it’s more important than ever to listen to people who have been silenced and spread messages of solidarity.”

Contact: Lynn Juliano,