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Washougal art lover named to commission

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category icon Arts & Entertainment, Hometown, Latest News, News, Washougal
Yvonne Gee sits on a bronze sculpture created by her partner, Daviid Van Zandt, in their Washougal home studio, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. (Doug Flanagan/Post-Record)

Yvonne Gee is not an artist herself, but she has become one of the key figures in the art community since moving to Washougal in 2019, publicly supporting and promoting the work of her partner, their friends, and local organizations.

Now, Gee is widening her reach. In January, the Washougal City Council approved Gee’s appointment to the Clark County Art Commission.

“I’ve always wanted to get involved in some kind of art thing,” said Gee, who lives in rural Washougal. “I’m not an artist, but I support the arts, I’m a patron of the arts, (and) I feel like everybody should have arts in their life.”

The 11-member Clark County Arts Commission promotes awareness and support of the arts, expands accessibility to art in public places, and supports collaboration among arts patrons, artists, the business community, service groups and cultural organizations, according to the county’s website.

The Commission also “supports local artists and arts groups in their efforts to secure grants and other financing and celebrate the creative talents and diverse skills of Clark County residents,” the website states.

“The different cities have representatives, and everyone reports on what’s going on in their city, and then we figure out where we need (to provide) support, who else we can reach out to, how we can network, who needs to know who, and how can we make the (county’s art presence) stronger instead of little islands of artists and things like that,” Gee said. “(We talk about), ‘How can we be a big community?’”

Gee said that she wants to promote Washougal’s public art to attract visitors “because we have so much for them to see.”

“I’m really good at organizing events and fundraising,” Gee said. “I’m a connector for people who may not know all of the art that is around here and how to access it. I’m going to try to talk to the school (district), talk to the Washougal Art and Culture Association, talk to the artists, (and find out) what we all want, what we are looking for, and how we can make that happen in Clark County.”

Gee worked as a geriatric physical therapist for 30 years on the East Coast and in California before retiring and moving to Washougal with her partner, David Van Zandt, in 2019. In 2014, she started working as a sales representative and wellness educator for Young Living, a Utah-based multi-level marketing company that sells essential oils and other related products, a position she still holds.

She also recently launched Embrace Qi, and nonprofit organization that “tries to get people to reconnect to their own vitality, get to know themselves ‘mind body spirit,’ get to know the earth and what they doing to the earth, how the earth is helping them, how we can live cohesively and collaboratively together, build community instead of divide.”

Gee has worked diligently during the past several years to build Washougal’s art community as well, partnering with Van Zandt to put on on a variety of activities and events, including sculpture workshops, drum circles, salsa dancing classes, “sound baths” and more at Van Zandt’s home studio/gallery.

“We want to make this space kind of a gathering area. It’s a stopping point for people,” she said. “(We’re) just trying to get people out of their houses. They need to get out, they need to meet their neighbors, they need to see what’s going on in their community and be supportive of it. Don’t go all the way to Portland. We have so much right here.”

While attending the University of California-Berkeley, where she earned a degree in anatomy/physiology in the late 1980s, she worked for Cal Performances, a performing arts presenting, commissioning and producing organization. While attending Hahnemann University Hospital (Philadelphia), where she earned a masters’ degree in physical therapy in the early 1990s, she worked as an usher for several theaters.

“I was behind the scenes,” she said. “I would be on the working side of it, but I was always involved. … There are no rules around art. You get to do what you want to do. If you love it, you get to do it. If someone else loves it, too, that’s even better. You just really get to find what’s inside you, and you get to put it out there for other people to see. You don’t get to do that with many professions or jobs. I think everyone needs access to art. It’s a creative outlet and a creative inlet.”

For more information about the classes and events at Van Zandt’s studio, visit vanzandtstudio.net.