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Spokane Valley Summer Theatre executive director wins Governor’s Arts & Heritage Award

Sept. 21, 2022 Updated Fri., Sept. 23, 2022 at 11:18 p.m.

Yvonne A.K. Johnson has been chosen as one of this year’s “Difference Makers.” She is the founder and director of the Spokane Valley Summer Theatre, soon to be the Spokane Valley Performing Arts Center.  (COLIN MULVANY\THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)
Yvonne A.K. Johnson has been chosen as one of this year’s “Difference Makers.” She is the founder and director of the Spokane Valley Summer Theatre, soon to be the Spokane Valley Performing Arts Center. (COLIN MULVANY\THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)

Spokane Valley Summer Theatre executive director Yvonne Johnson will be honored alongside eight other individuals and organizations during the 2022 Governor’s Arts & Heritage Awards.

Returning to their traditional categories after last year’s Luminary Awards – which Spokane Valley Summer Theatre won as an organization – the awards acknowledge individuals and organizations for “significant contributions to Washington’s creative vitality.”

“We are thrilled to announce these nine extraordinary honorees, each an irreplaceable pillar of their community,” ArtsWA executive director Karen Hanan said. “We have made extraordinary progress as a state and as a society since the darkest days of the pandemic. The 2022 honorees represent the profound integrity, ingenuity and resilience of Washington’s creative spirit.”

Since the Governor’s Arts Awards were established in 1966 – and Governor’s Heritage Awards in 1989 – GAHA has honored 250 such individuals and organizations. Nominating Johnson for an individual award in the arts category, GAHA cited Johnson’s leadership, community development and her ongoing efforts with respect to the Idaho Central Spokane Valley Performing Arts Center project, scheduled for completion in June 2024.

Georgia Oxford, Marnie Rorholm, David Lynch, Christina Lynch, Yvonne Johnson, Randall Johnson and Kiffen Overbay break ground on the performing arts center Saturday in Spokane Valley.  (Garrett Cabeza / The Spokesman-Review)
Georgia Oxford, Marnie Rorholm, David Lynch, Christina Lynch, Yvonne Johnson, Randall Johnson and Kiffen Overbay break ground on the performing arts center Saturday in Spokane Valley. (Garrett Cabeza / The Spokesman-Review)

The key to surviving and thriving the past few years as a theater company, Johnson said, has been resiliency.

“Regardless of the pandemic, we’ve continued to push forward,” she said.

While difficult, these years have brought a few silver linings. The pandemic pause gave her team more time to work on the silent phase of the performing arts center capital campaign. Since reopening, numbers continue to rise.

“We just had a record-breaking season … again,” she said. “And I think it’s important to note … we’ve had the best years on record in all areas.”

Season ticket sales are up 231%. This season’s production of “Newsies” was the bestselling show in the history of the organization.

Humbled to have won alongside her fellow recipients, Johnson is proud to be bringing home another award to Spokane Valley Summer Theatre.

“Honestly, this is a great honor, a joy, a privilege to receive this,” Johnson said. “To receive this … prestigious award from the governor … I’m just really humbled and very grateful.”

Johnson will travel to the governor’s mansion in Olympia for the award ceremony on Nov. 1.

For information, visit arts.wa.gov/gaha.

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