The arts have been a part of Athena Cole’s life for as long as she can remember.
Cole, a Camas High School senior, has a mother who is a professional artist, and a musician father who plays 15 different instruments.
So, it’s not a huge shock that Cole enjoys art as well. But what is surprising in the number of ways she uses her talent: Cole, an avid “gamer” is considering programming video games as a career. At the same time, she also loves to create costumes, build props from scratch, paint, design backdrops, play the piano and sing.
“I have a lot of interests,” she said. “When I’ve gone for college interviews, they all want to know what I want to do with my life, and I have a hard time answering that question.”
Cole has applied at several universities, including Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, Cornell in Ithaca, N.Y., and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.
Cole has taken all Advanced Placement classes during her junior and senior years, and passed the tests with scores high enough to qualify her for college credit. However, it’s not her main reason for choosing the rigorous courses.
“Mainly, I like it just for the classes,” she said. “I get bored in the non-AP courses.”
When she was little, Cole would often wander into her mother Hillary’s home studio and paint with watercolors. But as she grew older, she became more interested in digital art. However, that love of painting returned when Cole took an art class her freshman year with teacher Rod Raunig.
“I really like it,” she said. “I need that to totally switch gears for awhile. In an art class, you get judged based on effort. I really like that about it. It helps me let go of the technical side for a bit.”
Raunig said Cole is one of the most talented students he has taught.
“The great thing about Athena is that she has a tremendous creative intelligence to go along with her technical ability,” he said. “Athena has the ability to see the images in her mind before she realizes them on paper.”
Cole said she gets inspiration from objects and situations she sees every day.
“I might be on a bus late at night and see something out of the window from the corner of my eye, and I’ll get inspired,” she said. “I see things around me, and notice odd details. I always try to have some kind of theme or message.”
In her spare time, Cole enjoys going to anime and gaming conventions, frequently attending in costumes she’s designed herself.
“My parents have been pretty cool about all if it,” she said. “And I’ve done some extreme stuff. They’ve been very supportive of me taking on projects.”
Cole doesn’t see herself painting for a living.
“I think it will be a hobby,” she said. “I want to get more into backdrops and props for theater, so that’s probably what I will focus on.”
Raunig said Cole is extremely dedicated and focused.
“Many artists never realize their potential due to a lack of effort, focus or determination,” he said. “Athena does not have that problem. She has to be reminded to keep her self-expectations realistic and fun.”