The Washougal Arts and Culture Alliance (WACA) has named Jeffree White and Alice Yang as its artist and community member, respectively, of 2022 in recognition of their “significant” contributions to the Washougal art scene.
Yang works as an art teacher at Cape Horn-Skye Elementary and Cape Creek Middle schools, and White owned and operated the Washougal School of Music before relocating to Mexico earlier this year.
“It is remarkable to see the beauty and mastery of Alice’s students on display at the Washougal Youth Arts Month gallery each year,” WACA board Member Rene Carroll said. “And although Jeffree no longer resides in our community, we believe his contributions to art in Washougal were significant and will live on.”
White and Yang will be recognized at a public gathering, to be held at 3 p.m.Monday, Sept. 26, at 54-40 Brewing Company in Washougal.
“We are fortunate to have such talented and inspirational people in our community who are devoted to the promotion of art,” WACA President Molly Coston said. “It is our honor to recognize Alice and Jeffree for their significant contributions.”
Both honorees said they were surprised to learn that they’d been recognized by WACA.
“Being in my own bubble of a home-based business, I don’t always see the impact I make in the community over the years,” White said in a news release. “This honor truly means a lot. The folks in WACA are exceptional humans whom I greatly admire. And I know there are many worthy artists in the area.”
“With all the dedicated and amazing community members I know are here in Washougal, I can think of so many others who deserve this honor,” Yang added. “I am both exhilarated and humbled by this recognition.”
White, a music performer and teacher for more than 30 years, opened the Washougal School of Music in 2016, offering instruction in guitar, piano, mandolin, ukulele, and bass guitar via one-on-one in-person and virtual lessons. He moved to Ajijic, Mexico, with his wife, Kelli Rule, a former WACA board member, earlier this year.
“I’m grateful to the families of the students who have been supporting us, and the community in general has really embraced the school,” White told the Post-Record in 2021. “It absolutely is No. 1 for my career. I’ve achieved more success than I imagined. There was a good variety of challenges because everybody has different tastes, and (my students) have made me work harder and develop as a musician and as a teacher.”
White also performed at many local events and establishments, including the Washougal Senior Center, the Washougal Art Festival, Washougal Youth Arts Month, Pirates in the Plaza/Park and WACA house concerts.
“I enjoyed the events,” said White, who joined the city of Washougal’s newly-formed arts commission in 2019. “(Performing) at the community center, Reflection Plaza, and the library was really rewarding. We enjoyed the community, the friendly people. You can run into people and be on a first-name basis with (just about anybody).”
White has joined the music scene in Ajijic, playing keyboards in a local jazz/pop band, working on a solo show, hosting rehearsals in his home music studio and playing with a bluegrass musician, an endeavor which may develop into a new incarnation of his band, Train River.
“I’ve been a performer much longer than a teacher, more consistently, and I’d like to get back to that,” White told the Post-Record before he relocated. “The gigs around Portland have been drying up for me, especially (due) to the pandemic, of course, but (Ajijic) has a really bustling, thriving music scene. I could be at a cafe playing music multiple nights a week. I’m looking to get back into that more, and maybe start up a couple of bands. I think I can make it work, especially with the expat community down there.”
Yang has worked as an educator for the past 17 years, all but seven as an art teacher, and recently earned a master’s degree in art education. She is a member of the Columbia River Arts and Cultural Foundation, Washougal’s liaison to the Clark County Arts Commission, and the coordinator of the Parkersville Day event student art contest, and plays a key role in the Washougal School District’s annual Washougal Youth Art Month events.
“Last school year a second grader asked me with sincere curiosity if I liked my job,” Yang said in the news release. “I answered, ‘No. I love my job.’ The young people in our community are a daily source of inspiration to me. By building relationships with my students, I learn what their interests are, which in turn guides my lessons.”
Yang said that students, regardless of their future professions, can find a safe space to explore ideas, examine and solve problems, learn perseverance skills, and develop empathy in art rooms.
“Art by nature is inspirational,” she said. “My students help me to maintain that drive.”
After graduating from the University of Texas with a degree in architecture and working for firms in Texas and New York, Yang discovered her passion for education after the birth of her daughter, according to the Clark County Arts Commission website.
“Art allows us to speak about our values, fears, and joys,” she said. “Bringing our community closer together is more important now than ever. With growing polarization, climate threats, and a never-ending stream of horrific news, we can turn to art to help process these trying times together. … I want each community member to feel important, valued, and cared for. This will help us to weather any storm that comes our way.”