Washougal to kick off annual Youth Arts Month

March events include art gallery, music performances, rock-painting and more

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Attendees look at student artwork during the 2022 Washougal Youth Arts Month gallery exhibit at Washougal High School, March 23, 2022. (Doug Flanagan/Post-Record files)

Art is therapeutic for Canyon Creek Middle School sixth-graders Sophia Genova and Lilly Kogel, albeit in different ways.

For Sophia, it presents an opportunity to escape the pressures of her daily routines and relax in a comfortable environment.

For Lilly, it serves as a way to express feelings and develop relationships with classmates.

Sophia and Lilly’s work will be on display next month, during the 2024 Washougal Youth Arts Month (WYAM), an annual celebration of student creativity and innovation presented by the Washougal School District (WSD) and the Washougal Arts and Culture Alliance (WACA).

The month-long celebration, which kicks off March 1, will include more than 10 free, family-friendly events to showcase the talents and creativity of Washougal students.

“Washougal Youth Arts Month is a tradition that our students and community look forward to each year,” Canyon Creek Middle School art teacher Alice Yang said. “It showcases the many talents of Washougal kids as they learn and grow.”

Yang said art classes have never been more important for students.

“Especially with budget cuts and things like that, we really want to make sure that arts stay in the schools because they are such an important way for kids to learn. (Arts are) such an integral part of a well-rounded education,” Yang said. “These kids are so stressed right now anyway, so it’s really important. And it’s a great time to socialize because they get to talk about their art and talk with their friends while they’re working, so it’s a really nice place to grow emotionally while working on their skills at the same time.”

The public will have a chance to view Washougal students’ artwork during the monthlong celebration of young artists’ signature event, the Washougal Youth Arts Month Gallery, which will be on display March 21-23, at Washougal Town Center, 1700 Main St., in downtown Washougal. The gallery will feature student-crafted multimedia, watercolor, clay, video, photography, metal and wood artwork.

The monthlong celebration also includes free musical performances by Washougal students; family friendly art programs at the Washougal Community Library; and rock-painting events hosted by The Paint Roller.

Other youth art-related events, including Washougal High School’s drama production of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” in May, will continue past the designated “Youth Arts Month” of March.

“Washougal has become known for its support of the arts, and an important part of that support is in fostering the abilities of our young people,” said WACA member and Washougal School Board member Chuck Carpenter. “This is why WACA, the City and the schools work together on Youth Arts Month.”

To view a full schedule of the Youth Arts Month events in Washougal, visit

Different art styles, same success

Sophia, who attended Mount Pleasant School in rural Washougal before transferring to Canyon Creek for the 2023-24 school year, excels at all types of art, but prefers three-dimensional work and fabrics, according to Yang.

“Lately she’s been doing some crocheting, and that’s been very meditative,” Yang said of Sophia. “She likes a lot of the fiber arts. She likes sewing. She likes to (work with) clay. And she does a lot of ceramics. She’s definitely improved on her techniques and shading and things like that. Her craftsmanship is amazing; it’s a little more technical as opposed to conceptual. She’s just such a hard worker.”

Yang described Sophia as “a pretty high-achieving student who does sports and is very well-rounded, but enjoys art because she says that it helps her to de-stress from all the other responsibilities that she has.”

“She’s a typical ‘A’ student, type ‘A’ person who really enjoys art because it allows her to have unstructured time because her life is so structured,” Yang said. “One time, she said that art is an escape — not an escape from reality, but an escape from responsibilities and other stress.”

Sophia’s art has flourished recently, Yang said.

“At the beginning of the year, she was very focused on getting assignments done and working on grade. Now she’s more relaxed and just focusing more on her skills,” Yang said. “I’ve seen her become much less stressed about her grades and about school. She (views my class as) a nice first period of the day. It’s a great start for her.”

Lilly, meanwhile, uses art to express her feelings “without using words,” according to Yang.

“She’s so much of an introvert, (so having that ability) is really important for her,” Yang said. “Her artwork is very emotional. … After she completes the work, I see a change in her. She’s more ‘smiley.’ I think it’s very therapeutic for her in that way.”

Lilly stated in a news release that “art is important because it helps get your creativity out into the world.”

“She’s kind of known as one of the top artists in the class,” Yang said of Lilly. “She gets ‘in the zone,’ and she just does amazing two-dimensional work — her paintings and drawings are just phenomenal. She is just so amazingly talented.”

Art has also helped Lilly develop her social skills and become more self-confident, according to Yang.

“She’s been able to find her ‘tribe,’” Yang said. “There are other artists that she loves to work with, and when they work together, they just bounce ideas off each other, they give each other critiques. I think she feels really seen and more valued for her skills because other students are just really impressed with her abilities. And she really thrives in (the after-school club); I think just having that freedom to explore different art styles and find out how things work (has allowed her to) blossom.”

“The arts are an important element of our students’ education in Washougal,” said Washouggal school superintendent Mary Templeton. “Student exposure and participation in both fine arts and performance arts are essential to educating the whole child.”