Tim Yanke inspires Nevada elementary students
Inspiration can come from anywhere at any time, something artist Tim Yanke had the pleasure of learning upon receiving a letter from Virgin Valley Elementary School in Nevada.
Lori Raines, an art specialist at Virgin Valley Elementary School, discovered Yanke’s artwork during a cruise in 2015. While aboard the Norwegian Cruise Line ship, she said her favorite activity was attending the Park West Gallery art auctions where she learned about his “Yanke Doodle” series.
The series of U.S. flag art originated when Yanke and his son, Angelo, installed a flag pole at their home following the events of the Sept. 11 attacks. The sense of patriotism Yanke felt motivated him to create artwork that evokes the American spirit, but also spoke to the country’s diversity.
Yanke says the non-traditional colors of his “Yanke Doodle” series represent the colors of flags from different nationalities and how America is a melting pot of cultures and people. His finishing touch is to write out the first verse of the “Star-Spangled Banner” and the names of all 50 states onto the flag.
In a letter to Yanke dated in October, Raines explained that she saw an opportunity to inspire the 700 students she teaches to create patriotic artwork for a Veterans Day art competition. She introduced Yanke to her students through YouTube videos of the artist working on a Yanke Doodle.
Raines said the students cheered when watching Yanke write “Nevada” onto his painting. She says they also enjoyed the way Yanke wrote “Michigan” in the blue section of the art and “Ohio” in a white stripe, referencing the infamous sports rivalry between the two states. The students also urged Raines not to tell Yanke she is from Utah, as the University of Utah beat Michigan in football the weekend prior to the lesson.
More importantly, though, she says they quickly grasped the message behind Yanke’s flags.
“I was proud that my students really showed understanding of the way you chose to show diversity by using many colors,” Raines wrote.
Students then created their own art based on what they learned, samples of which can be seen here. Like Yanke, the children wrote patriotic messages on their flags.
Yanke says he was impressed by the variety he saw in the illustrations, and was touched to see his artwork motivating children to learn and be creative.
“You don’t think you have much of an effect on the world, but to get that feedback and interaction because of something you did was very moving,” he says.
He says as an artist, one sometimes wonders if they are contributing to the world, or if one’s paintings are “worthy.” The kind letter and artwork sent to him answers both those questions in his mind.
“I’m not changing the world or feeding the world by anything I do, it wasn’t a big noble thing that I did, but to know that there are students in this classroom in Nevada and they’re having assignments in relation to artwork I created…it was very rewarding,” he says.
Yanke has donated his Yanke Doodle artwork to clients with Habitat for Humanity, and has volunteered his time to the Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency.