TreeSong yearns for yurt

Concert, art show to help Washougal-area nonprofit expand its indoor space

Renowned guitarist Paul Chasman, whose musical career has spanned 50 years and who has produced more than 20 records, will perform at the Forest Dreams fundraiser in Vancouver this Saturday to benefit TreeSong.

Oregon artist R. Dennis Wiancko will contribute his "dissolving-view nature photography" to a fundraiser for TreeSong Nature Awareness and Retreat Center this Saturday, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. in Vancouver. At right is one of his photographs.

Photographs by Oregon artist R. Dennis Wiancko, such as this stunning landscape, will be part of the Sept. 28 "Forest Dreams" fundraiser for TreeSong, a Washougal-area nonprofit.

Local artists have contributed several art pieces, including the vase at left and the frog sculpture at right, to the silent art auction at the "Forest Dreams" fundraiser in Vancouver this Saturday to benefit TreeSong, a Washougal-area nonprofit.

Local artists have contributed several art pieces, including this dish, to the silent art auction at the "Forest Dreams" fundraiser in Vancouver this Saturday to benefit TreeSong, a Washougal-area nonprofit.

A photograph by Oregon artist R. Dennis Wiancko hints at the type of "dissolving-view nature photography" that will be part of the Sept. 28 "Forest Dreams" fundraiser for TreeSong Nature Awareness and Retreat Center.

A child experiments with paint colors at a TreeSong class. The Washougal-area nonprofit offers a range of nature- and art-focused classes and workshops for children, families and adults.

A child paints a flowerpot during a recent TreeSong class. The Washougal-area nonprofit offers a range of nature- and art-focused classes and workshops for children, families and adults.

TreeSong Nature Awareness and Retreat Center near Washougal is on a growth trajectory.

Six years after the nonprofit’s executive director, Michelle Fox, first welcomed visitors to her art-and-nature focused education center, which is nestled on a wooded piece of riverside land off Washougal River Road, TreeSong has outgrown its “red cabin” space.

“With five children’s groups starting this fall, along with a robust collection of arts and naturalist offerings for families and adults, an Artist in Residence program and various other community events, there is a need for another, bigger space,” Fox said recently. “We would like to buy a 30-foot yurt to put on the property.”

The yurt will mostly accommodate the center’s children’s classes, but may also host weekend adult workshops and other TreeSong classes and events.

The nonprofit’s website describes TreeSong as a space that is “dedicated to fostering a deep connection to nature, community and self, while inspiring stewardship for the planet at-large.”

The center has children’s programming — and has grown from its two school-year groups to three monthly school-year groups plus two weekly homeschool offerings — as well as courses and workshops for adults and families, such as the recent wolf education class that Fox said was “very well attended” and the center’s end-of-summer gathering.

Although the center’s focus is nature and class participants often find themselves meeting outside or exploring TreeSong’s river frontage or wooded spaces, Fox said she needs warm, indoor spaces where the children or adult workshop participants can seek refuge during particularly rainy months.

“Our aim is to be outside as much as possible, but we live in the Pacific Northwest and, even though we still go out and walk in the rain and dress appropriately for the rain, it’s still not fun to be out in the rain for five hours,” Fox said. “We’ve just completely outgrown the cabin space. So we’ve got to get moving and get into a different situation.”

Fox estimates it will cost about $40,000 to buy the yurt and its deck, install the structure on the TreeSong land and get it outfitted for electricity and water.

To help fundraise for yurt purchase and installation, Fox is hosting a concert, art exhibit and silent art auction this weekend in Vancouver.

The “Forest Dreams” fundraiser, slated to take place from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Vancouver, will feature guitarist Paul Chasman, dissolving-view nature photography by Columbia River Gorge-based artist R. Dennis Wiancko and a silent auction featuring the work of more than 20 local artists.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. at the church, located at 4505 E. 18th St., Vancouver, and the silent auction will precede the concert. Beverages and appetizers will be served. Tickets cost $25 per person and are available for purchase at the door or online at TreeSongNatureAwareness.org. All proceeds will benefit TreeSong’s efforts to buy the yurt.

Media artist R. Dennis Wiancko, who lives near Corbett, Oregon, in the Columbia River Gorge, is a photographer, sound designer and writer who has won several awards for his work, including the Motion Picture Sound Editors Golden Reel Award, the International Multi-Image Festival’s gold and silver awards and other honors from the Northwest Film and Video Festival and Communication Arts magazine. Wiancko will present his nature-based imagery at the TreeSong fundraiser.

Likewise, guitarist Paul Chasman, who will perform at the Sept. 28 fundraiser, is an accomplished artist who has recorded more than 20 albums as a soloist and collaborator and is one of the founding members of the Acoustic Guitar Summit. According to TreeSong’s media release about the fundraiser, Chasman “has immersed himself in blues, bluegrass, jazz, ragtime, classical and rock” music and has said, when asked what his favorite music might be: “Whatever I’m playing at the moment.” Guitar Player magazine once described Chasman’s guitar-playing as “spellbinding, imaginative, sensitive … (and) a fine example of a guitarist’s devotion to the full exploration of his instrument’s capabilities.”

Fox said she’s excited by the prospect of adding to TreeSong and having another indoor space for her nonprofit’s nature-and-art-based programs.

“The dream was to have (the yurt) by late fall, only because we will need it in the winter,” Fox said. “But, more realistically, I can see having it in the spring.”

To learn more about TreeSong’s programs or to purchase tickets for the Sept. 28 event, visit TreeSongNatureAwareness.org.

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