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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.



Gallery Main Street hosts First Digital Exhibit

Gallery Main Street will host their first digital exhibit from May 1 to July 7. While facilities continue to be closed or with limited hours due to COVID-19, pictures and virtual tours of this exhibit will be available at Art will also be available for purchase online.

The spring exhibit is an open theme to allow local artists an opportunity to spotlight their different mediums, methods, visions and experiences.

“Art never stops,” said Main Street Director Amber Varona. “Now more than ever it is important to create innovative opportunities for artists to display and sell their art.”

This will be the first juried exhibit in the new gallery space inside the Plaza Tower. The space provides the artwork to be visible beyond the hours of the Main Street office and by patrons visiting the new first floor retail bays. The gallery serves as a valued centerpiece to the beautifully furnished atrium that serves as an inviting gathering spot.

For more information, visit or call (903) 593-6905.


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Online UT Tyler MFA and BFA Art Exhibits Now Available

The University of Texas at Tyler has announced online art exhibitions featuring the work of students who graduated this spring with Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees.

Traditionally held on campus, the exhibitions were modified for online viewing as a safeguard in response to the coronavirus. The work of four MFA and eight BFA graduates can be viewed at

“While we are heavy-hearted about the inability to celebrate our student achievements face to face, we recognize the importance of taking precautionary measures during this time,’’ said Merry Wright, professor and chair of the Department of Art and Art History. “We are pleased to announce our online exhibitions, and we are incredibly proud of the students featured. They have remained steadfast in their commitment to creating and have approached the unfolding events with the highest caliber of professionalism.’’

MFA Exhibitions

Artists featured in the MFA exhibitions include:

Jessica Sanders of Tyler makes delicate-looking ceramic sculpture. Her exhibition is titled “Attach | Manipulate | Respond.” “This body of work deals with form, space, and visual accessibility,’’ Sanders said. “The pieces are made up of small, individual ceramic pieces that are attached together with wire, making flexible ceramic sheets.”

John Miranda’s exhibition, “Pan Dulce in the Sauce,“ features sculpture and paintings inspired by his hometown of Del Rio. “My work is a visceral response to a lived reality, an abstraction of space and memory,’’ he said.” Inanimate entities become communities within space as I try to find a balance between cultural history and personal experiences.”

Laminda Miller of Gladewater makes animal sculptures of epoxy clay and mixed media. Her exhibition, “Intentions,’’ features deceptively whimsical works that are allegorical representations of the social, psychological and literal constructs of identity.

Nora Schreiber of Tyler explores a curiosity of the world around her in her exhibition titled “ALL IT CAN BE IS WHAT IT WAS NAMED.” She asks her audience to step into a visual exploration of the mundane in their daily lives, with a theatrical twist.

BFA Exhibition

Artists highlighted in the BFA exhibition, titled “Nascent,’’ include

Lidia Alvidrez of Dallas – Avridrez’s work as a ceramic artist is influenced by her life experiences and dealing with a mental disorder.

Katherine Emmel of Overton – Emmel’s work is focused primarily in painting and reflects


several dystopian and emotional narratives found within everyday society.

Willow Lanchester of Tyler – Lanchester works primarily in clay and metal sculpture. Her art pieces are focused permutations of form that explore themes of concealed information.

Maggie Pierce of Tyler – Pierce uses photo-based printmaking techniques to create highly altered versions of desert landscape. Her work examines the landscape and our relationship to it as something that is mediated by various technologies.

Payton Poole of Tyler – Poole works with multimedia, three-dimensional sculptures, both interactive and wearable, that open conversations about mental illness and the stigma against it.

Grace Richardson of Troup – Richardson uses screen-printing methods to create non- objective forms that render familiarity through their interactions and emphasis on color. A vocabulary of shape and color is established through these arrangements, creating a relationship and language between form and viewer.

Justin Witherspoon of Kilgore – Witherspoon is a printmaker who works in both relief and mono-type. His current body of work is focused on contrasting hard lines and stark objects with nebulous color, inviting exploration.

Teresa Young of Marshall – Young is a sculptor whose works incorporate disposed items such as shipping material and objects from nature. The items signify abandonment and reincarnation.

For more information about the exhibitions, contact Michelle Taff, UT Tyler gallery and media coordinator, at 903-566-7237 or

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Historic Tyler Celebrates with 26th Annual Photo Contest

May is a time when thousands of individuals around the country join in a nationwide celebration of National Preservation Month, sponsored annually by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This May, Preservation Month is going virtual.  Even though many historical places are physically closed right now, we hope to excite current preservation supporters and introduce new audiences to the preservation work that makes our community special by opening a window to a world of adventure online.

The National Trust created Preservation Week in 1973 to spotlight grassroots preservation efforts in America.  Since then, it has grown into an annual celebration observed by small towns and big cities across the United States. Due to its popularity, the National Trust extended the event to the entire month of May, which was then declared Preservation Month to provide more opportunities to celebrate the diverse and unique heritage of our country’s cities and states. The hope is to introduce more Americans to the growing preservation movement.

Here at Historic Tyler, we will celebrate Preservation Month by virtually highlighting preservation efforts made here in our own beautiful Rose City, and by hosting our annual Photo Contest.  Historic Tyler’s Photo Contest has been a Preservation Month staple for over twenty-five years, and this year’s theme is Beyond Your Basic Brick. We have picked historic properties throughout the Azalea and Charnwood historic districts that feature interesting bricks, brick patterns or brick details.

To enter the photo contest, identify each photograph by its address or name and submit answers to Historic Tyler, Inc., P.O. Box 6774, Tyler, TX, 75711, send an email to or private message us on social media.  Entries must be submitted no later than end-of-day, Monday, June 21, 2020.  The entry with the highest number of correct answers will be awarded a family membership in Historic Tyler, Inc. and $50 cash.  In the event of ties, a drawing will be held to determine the winner.

To enter the photo contest, identify each photograph by its current name or address and submit answers to: Historic Tyler, Inc., P.O. Box 6774, Tyler, TX, 75711, Send an email to, or Private message us on social media.

Entries must be submitted no later than end of day, Monday, June 21, 2020. The entry with the highest number of  correct answers will be awarded a family membership in Historic Tyler, Inc. and $50 cash. In the event of ties, a drawing will be held to determine the winner.

Historic Tyler, a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization, was founded in 1977 with a mission “to promote the preservation and protection of historic structures and sites through advocacy, education, involvement, and private and public investment.”  It is a membership-based organization with many preservation accomplishments to its credit.  Executive Director Mrs. Washmon invites you to visit their website: for more information on the organization, which is located in the Charnwood District at 110 E. Charnwood Street.

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