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Inside the Artist’s Studio: Derrick White

Written and Photographed By A. C. Slaughter

Awesome doesn’t even begin to describe artist Derrick White. Crazy, cool, fun, excited, motivated, inspired and dedicated might get us started but there are so many words, yet none, that capture the essence of a man so committed to his art, his students, his community and his family that he is hailed as ‘The man who does it all’, everywhere he goes.

derrick white 2Derrick has been a full time Professor of Art at Tyler Junior College for 13 years, the TJC Art Club faculty sponsor for 11 years and the Gallery Director for the Wise Auditorium Gallery for 13 years. His work can be seen at Soju Sushi Bar and Asian Bistro here in Tyler, Grande Hill Estates Apartments, Tyler Junior College West Campus and One Realtor on the East Loop, also found here in Tyler.

And now, a little about why his students and the art community love him so much.
Every year the TJC Art Club, under Derrick’s leadership, makes cash donations to the “Make A Wish” foundation. The Art Club also provides food for “Tyler Aids Services” by hosting a school-wide can food drive every semester right inside the art department. The Art Club paints murals for local businesses and has helped the TJC Dance Studio earn $15,000 by donating paintings for a fundraising auction. Also under Derrick’s brave and never ending encouragement, TJC students were awarded scholarship money from paintings that they donated, made possible by Jim and Margaret Perkins via Citizens State Bank.

It just doesn’t stop.

Derrick’s commitment to the greater Tyler area has been more than well received. He is one of the funniest and youthful artists we have here. Just ask his students. The Art Club has an annual event called the “Annual Art Club Thunderdome” held the last Wednesday of April right behind Jenkins Hall. Students participate by bringing one of their pieces to be judged by the cheering crowd who decides the one winner of the day. There is only one winner but the catch is that if you lose, as all but one do, you agree to have your work destroyed by a Mexican wrestling style sword drawn devastator who kicks, punches, mutilates student’s art work right before their eyes. As the crowd looks on, student artists are encouraged to remember that no one piece is sacred in the art world and once that lesson is learned, artists can actually start making art.

even the floor of his studio is paintedSo when does Derrick White have time to make his own art?

That’s a great question. The answer is: always.

“There are so many college professor burnouts who stop producing once they start teaching but I found the opposite to be true. I find I gain energy from the students and being an art professor makes me a better artist which makes me a better professor.”

Many times artists fall into day jobs that take away much needed time and energy. The key to any successful artist is to find the balance. Part of that balance is having a support group and Derrick’s support group is his family. Married to his beautiful wife, Alicia, for 20 years they have two children, 13 and 16 who are both budding artists. When you first meet the Whites, you get a sense, instantly instinctually, how wonderful their lives must be. Engaged and talkative the family tells stories of each other growing up, all funny and all laughing; they are a real treat to meet. Support group? Check! Studio? Check! Art? Check!

Having a family who backs him, Derrick is free to sling paint around all hours of the night. Having a studio at home makes him one of the lucky ones who can run out at a given moment and make marks. Derrick’s work is process based. “The painting tells me what it wants to be.” With the use of text, lyrics and poems Derrick’s work is loose and free but decisive and specific.

“Word is interesting in the sense that it’s playful but can be menacing too. Words get caught in your head and lose meaning once it’s in your head so it has to come out but it’s sometimes my subconscious that does it, as I am listening to music as I work. Using words out of context allows the viewer to make up their own mind.”

Graffiti-esk at first sight, the cartoon like gestures in his work want to be something that you can’t quite make out yet sometimes you will get a pearl and can recognize something. Our brains tend to WANT to make out a recognizable object and Derrick’s work teeters on the verge of image and non-image. Challenging and rewarding, one must take the time (and you will want to take time) getting to know his pieces.

I could write on and on about Derrick’s expressive, bright, inspired work but you are better off seeing it for yourself. Go to but be aware. You may be so inspired that you have to throw some paint around after viewing.

derrick whiteAnytime I see Derrick’s work I run home to my studio and blurt out a new piece. It can’t be helped. His work has a way of getting inside you, filling you up, until you explode creatively. This is what he does. This is why he is such a great professor and this is why he has such a following.

Participation in recent shows includes “500X Gallery: Hot and Sweaty: The Open Show” in Dallas, Texas, as well as the “56th Annual Delta Exhibition” at the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock, Arkansas.

A couple of years ago Derrick was one of the top 100 finalists for the Hunting Art Prize out of Houston. The Hunting Art Prize is the Cadillac of Art Shows. Every year the show awards one Texas resident $50,000. Yes, that’s right, fifty grand and its open to working artists, living in Texas who paint or draw. Out of the thousands who enter, to end up as one of the finalists in the top 100, is pretty awesome.

And Derrick’s accomplishments don’t stop there.

It is success stories like Derrick White’s that make East Texas a great place to live.

Each month I will bring you “Inside the Artist’s Studio,” a personal look at artists right here in our own backyard. It may shock and surprise you how many fabulous, creative beasts we have living amongst us but I think it will fill your heart and soul to see what each one of these great people do for our community.

And isn’t that really what’s important at the end of the day?

How we treat each other and ourselves?

If you know of a great artist, a gentle gem who shines in our piney woods, please let me know. Send an email to, attention: “Inside the Artist’s Studio” and we will be delighted to read your suggestions.

Check out,, look him up on YouTube, or email Derrick at with any questions or comments.

Until next month, stay classy East Texas and MAKE ART.


Tyler Museum of Art: “Texas Birds” and “Floating Life: Mississippi River”

ben wheeler

The Tyler Museum of Art (TMA) is located at 1300 S. Mahon Ave. on the Tyler Junior College main campus. Regular TMA hours are 10am-5pm Tuesday-Saturday, and 1-5pm Sunday. The Museum is closed Mondays. For more info call the museum at (903)595-1001,, or email

The Tyler Museum of Art ushers in the summer season with a visual celebration of the avian species that fly the skies over the Lone Star State in the new exhibition “Texas Birds: Works by Frank X. Tolbert 2.” The show continues through August 4th in the TMA’s Bell Gallery. Admission is free.

Organized by the TMA and curated by Caleb Bell, “Texas Birds” spotlights works from Tolbert’s ongoing Texas Bird Project – including a recently finished piece that never has been seen by the public. Started in 2014, this body of work includes drawings, paintings, and prints that highlight a wide variety of the bird species that inhabit the state. The series largely was inspired by early childhood experiences with the Lone Star State’s vast array of flora and fauna on trips the artist took with his father, Frank X. Tolbert Sr., as the elder Tolbert was writing his column “Tolbert’s Texas” for the “Dallas Morning News.” Work on the Texas Bird Project began when the artist was commissioned by Austin’s Flatbed Press & Gallery to create eight bird etchings. After the initial exhibition at Flatbed, Tolbert said he decided to continue the project indefinitely.

“Texas Birds” marks the first time works from the Texas Bird Project have been organized into a major museum exhibition. Tolbert’s work has been widely exhibited and is featured in numerous public collections, including the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Dallas Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. He and his wife, artist Ann Stautberg, live and work in Houston.

Support for “Texas Birds” is provided by Collectors’ Circle-Gold Sponsors June and Steve Hillis, and Myrtis D. Smith.

TMA Plots New Course with “Floating Life: Mississippi River Drawings by Liz Ward,” Through August 25th

The Tyler Museum of Art explores the mystique of the South as seen through the eyes of a Texas talent with its next major exhibition, “Floating Life: Mississippi River Drawings by Liz Ward.” The show continues through August 25th in the TMA’s North Gallery.

Organized by the TMA and curated by Caleb Bell, “Floating Life” is the first large-scale museum exhibition of Mississippi River works by Ward, a San Antonio artist and professor of art and art history at Trinity University, whose work largely is informed by natural history and the environmental crisis.

The exhibition spotlights pieces from two recent bodies of work: “Ghosts of the Old Mississippi” and “Veritas Caput.” The works from “Ghosts of the Old Mississippi” are based on geological maps of the river’s ancient courses and inspired by the artist’s childhood memories from South Louisiana, where her great-grandfather spent a career as a riverboat captain. 

Pieces from “Veritas Caput” focus on the search for the source of the river by various explorers.

Ward’s work has been widely exhibited and is featured in numerous public collections, including the Tyler Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Support for “Floating Life” is provided by Collectors’ Circle-Gold Sponsors Betty and Dick Summers.

Summer Lecture Series Programs

TMA’s 2019 Summer Lecture Series will be held in the Museum’s Education Gallery. A small reception will follow each lecture. Admission is free, but seating is limited. To RSVP, call (903)595-1001.

  • “Divide and Conquer: An Overview of the Mississippi River’s Role in the Civil War” by Dr. James Newsom, Senior Lecturer in Political Science and History, The University of Texas at Tyler will be held at 2:30pm, Sunday, June 23rd
  • “I Knew Mark Twain” by Dr. Jim Richey, Professor and Department Chair of English, Tyler Junior College at 2:30pm on Sunday, July 21st

Special Events

Special events in connection with current exhibitions include a free First Friday tour June 7th, July 5th and August 2nd.

The first Friday of each month, 11am-12:30pm, the TMA offers a full day of free admission plus guided tours of its spotlight exhibitions.

Family Days will be from 2-4pm Saturday, June 8th, July 13th and August 10th.

Free admission, interactive art projects, light snacks, and a festive atmosphere for all ages are on the menu for the second Saturday of each month with the Tyler Museum of Art’s Family Day.

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Bright Stars, Birds, & Beasts: Art on View This Summer

By Derrick White

Well, the heat has arrived. I’m sure you and yours need free, fun activities which will be stimulating to the senses and inside air-conditioned buildings, so check out these venues around town showcasing wonderful visual art.

Gallery Main Street, located in Downtown Tyler at 110 W. Erwin St., kicked off the summer by displaying the Caldwell Arts Academy Exhibit. The exhibition (which closed May 21st) featured 46 artworks by 42 different artists from Caldwell Arts Academy ranging from first through sixth grade. This was a great opportunity for these young artists to have their creations exhibited at a professional level in a real contemporary art space. The pieces were strong and showcased these youthful bright Caldwell Stars.

Gallery Main Street has been celebrating serving our community for the last 10 years with the “110@110” Art Exhibition and Fundraising Art Sale. 110 (10” x 10”) art pieces created by a select group of local artists will be available for affordable purchase at the grand opening on June 8th at 6pm. This runs through July 7th.

While you are Downtown, stop by ArtFix Cultured Studios around the corner at 112 S. Broadway Ave., where among the full walls of a variety of works by 13 gallery artists (including local talents Nyle Reams, Darby Blaise, and Cassie Bartley) you will find weekly workshops, classes, and events, now including a new recording studio booth in an old bank vault.

The Tyler Museum of Art exhibits “Texas Birds: Works by Frank X. Tolbert II” through August 4th containing artwork by the well-known Texas contemporary artist created for his ongoing Texas Bird Project. The exhibition contains drawings, paintings, and prints highlighting a variety of Texas bird species. The artist shows a range of his works and thought processes, from small-scale to large-scale, with colorful blasts, textured surfaces, exaggerated forms, complex compositions, and expressive lines.

Also on view is “Floating Life: Mississippi River Drawings by Liz Ward” through August 25th. This solo show by the artist and art professor at Trinity University in San Antonio spotlights pieces from two bodies of work – “Ghosts of the Old Mississippi” and “Veritas Caput” based on geological maps, river courses and sources, and childhood memories. The Tyler Museum of Art (TMA) is located at 1300 S. Mahon Ave. on the Tyler Junior College main campus. Regular TMA hours are 10am-5pm Tuesday-Saturday, and 1-5pm Sunday. The Museum is closed Mondays.

On view in the Meadows Gallery at the University of Texas at Tyler’s Cowan Center,located at 3900 University Blvd, Tyler, is the 2019 “Juried Student Exhibition.” The show is on display through August 9th and is free and open to the public Monday-Friday 9am-5pm.

This year’s juror is Kate Borcherding (Sam Houston State University art professor and mixed media artist focusing on psychological narratives with the human figure). Her selections are impressive and engaging. The professional skill level, appeal, and powerful content coming from these emerging Texas contemporary artists is remarkable and speaks volumes about our East Texas art scene. We have powerful artistic voices here.

Some of the excellent eye catchers included in the exhibition are Laminda Miller’s “New Life” (aluminum and epoxy clay), a small and powerful sculpture of a dead mouse hanging on the wall. The piece speaks to the fragility of life and the meekness of the small, and its form casts some incredible shadows.

Jessica Sanders’ “Fold, Cover, Fold” (porcelain, stoneware and wire) is a colorful, quilted tapestry of tiny, individual, geometric ceramic tiles sewn together with copper wire. The result is an intricate colorful blend of patterns where rigid, hard forms become billowy with fabric-like pleats.

Stephanie Nickel has an interesting triptych of old, rustic typewriters (ink and acrylic on paper) entitled “Shift from the ‘Story’ Series.” The images are faded and fleeting, and speak to the seasons of life and passage of time.

Brittany Taylor has a showstopper with her small painting “Stroller” (acrylic on panel). This one draws the viewer in close to examine the exquisite detail. It provides one with the sense of happening upon a hole in the wall of time and space and getting to peek through to another world, similar in appearance but eerily unlike our own.

The exhibit also features strong porcelain works from Willow Lanchester; well-crafted and intimate relief and monoprint works from Maggie Pierce and Kelly Waller; a mixed media video installation (and perhaps the funniest title in the show) from Nora Schreiber, “Am I Turning Myself Into a House Plant;” quality, large-scale paintings by Lilah Shepherd, John Miranda, and Erick Rodriguez; a beautiful charcoal drawing by Lorianne Hubbard; and a bright and colorful organic form watercolor, monoprint, and collage piece by Katherine Finch. I enjoyed Jack Delaney’s (oil on canvas) painting “Paradise Suite, wherein a couple greet each other with a kiss inside an implied linear perspective interior, oblivious to both the fiery sky outside and the wildcats and other critters clustered around the home. The piece is technically proficient while maintaining a head-scratching woolly juxtaposition leaving one guessing. Leon Campbell has a solid piece in “Tetris Line Pattern, a linocut on marbled paper creating a disorienting optic effect of layers with geometric line work atop fluid, unforced, subtle colors.

Two of the works visually hitting me the hardest, with a “creepy in a good way” sense of wonder, are “A Bone to Pick” by Joshua Crockett and “Unwanted/Prized” by Katie Dawn Dukes. Crockett’s work is a meticulously sculpted tooth made from 2,399 toothpicks. The tooth is textured, weathered, and brown like it’s been pulled from an old, craggy smoker. Crockett committed to forming this piece the hard way, and all the nuances of surface really paid off.

And then there’s Katie Dukes’ equestrian-esque fetus beast distorted by the clear liquid inside its specimen jar (oven clay, aluminum, glass, and water). This work is beautifully crafted and hauntingly indistinct. It stands in both worlds, of being either some believable fantasy or a freakish reality. Regardless, it is a job well done.

The exhibition also showcases quality pieces from Lidia Alvidrez, Rachel Lynn Anthony, Megan Brewer, Brady Collings, Coy Lothrop, Mike Ohara, Mary Ann Post, Jamin Shepherd, and Jacque Yost.

I wish I had room to discuss them all, but I don’t so you will have to go see the art yourselves. Summer is a great to do and as usual, art is a part of East Texas.  So be sure to see as much as you can while you are out seeking any cool air conditioning.

xpresso_printing tyler tx

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Art of Peace: Call for Entries

Entries now are being accepted for the Living Peace Visual Art Exhibit as part of the Art of Peace – Tyler celebration, a citywide commemoration of the United Nations International Day of Peace, September 21st.

“Art of Peace – Tyler is happy once again to partner with the Tyler Museum of Art to invite regional artists to offer their creative responses to the idea of peace and to our 2019 theme, ‘Living Peace,’” said Anne McCrady, co-founder and co-director of the peace event.

The visual art show will be presented as a juried exhibit from September 15th-22nd in the Education Classroom at the Tyler Museum of Art, 1300 S. Mahon Ave. on the Tyler Junior College main campus. The exhibit will be open to the public and admission is free.

The jury for selection will consist of members of the Art of Peace – Tyler committee and TMA representatives. The jury has the option to select up to two works per artist for inclusion in the show. Past exhibits have included the work of artists from Austin, Dallas, Lubbock, and the East Texas area.

“We are privileged that the Art of Peace – Tyler committee once again has asked us to be the host venue for this exhibition,” TMA Executive Director Chris Leahy said. “The work we have seen over the past four years of our partnership has grown increasingly more dynamic and accomplished, and we are proud to have the opportunity to participate in such a great community event.”

Entry deadline for the visual art show is July 31st. Works in all media are eligible, provided they can be juried by digital image. These include painting, drawing, printmaking, photography/digital media, sculpture, mixed media and fine craft (wood, metal, clay, fiber, glass). Artists should e-mail digital images, descriptions of work, CV and artist information to or mail a CD with information packet to: Art of Peace – Tyler Exhibit Committee, Tyler Museum of Art, 1300 S. Mahon Ave, Tyler, TX 75701.

“Since jury selection uses images of the artwork, artists should send high-quality images that represent their pieces as accurately and professionally as possible,” Ms. McCrady said. Artists must submit images as JPEG files. Art of Peace – Tyler reserves the right to reproduce artwork images of accepted entries for promotion of the exhibition in the media.

The TMA does not allow art sales on the premises. However, given artist permission, guests will be provided with names of artists and selected contact information, McCrady said. Visitors who wish to purchase artwork may contact the artist directly regarding a sale after the close of the show.

Sunday, September 22nd, there will be an Artist Reception at 3pm with a program starting at 3:30pm.

For more information about Art of Peace – Tyler events, visit For questions about the art exhibition, e-mail or call Ms. McCrady at (903)658-5645.

The Art of Peace – Tyler will be held September 15th-22nd.

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More To Do!