“My family, friends and girlfriend, Amy, helped me through some rough times,” said Yang, of Wausau. “They had my back. And Amy is constantly here for me. Her love and compassion keep me going. She reminds me, ‘Don’t compare yourself to other people. Just be better than yourself.’”
Yang earned his undergraduate degree from UW-Stout in 2019, but he felt he hadn’t reached his full potential. He will graduate with his Master of Fine Arts in design from UW-Stout on Saturday, May 6.
“I’m proud of how my art and design improved and seeing where I am now,” he said.
“For a long time, I was selling myself short. My family and Amy helped me to keep going. You need that support system. I want to make them proud and keep pushing myself. I want to help other students know that tomorrow you’ll be better than you are today.”
Yang’s education also led him on a spiritual journey of rediscovering his Hmong culture through the arts.
“Whether the legend is true or not is debated – but it speaks to the importance of the art form,” Yang said. “Paj Ntaub became a way for women to communicate and preserve their language and culture.”
Yang is thankful for the support he received during his time at UW-Stout, naming mentors Tanya Gunkel, Educational Materials Center librarian; Aubrey Huff, former librarian; as well as his thesis committee members – Evensen; Associate Professor Mitchell Ogden, English, philosophy and communication; and Assistant Professor Mary Climes, of comics.
Yang’s mother died a little over a year ago from COVID.
“I had originally wanted to include my mother in some capacity for my thesis. She unfortunately will never be able to see what I had planned for the future after graduation,” he said. “My brother, sister-in-law and sister have supported me in my mother's place.”
New Library Art Lab
Yang’s thesis show was recently displayed in the new Library Art Lab, on the first floor of the University Library.
The exhibit space was created in collaboration with faculty and staff of the library and the School of Art and Design, led by Sue Lindahl, assistant director of Cataloging and Access Services; Professor Charlie Lume; and Renee Carrell, Furlong Gallery assistant director.
“There was a need on campus for more art exhibit space for students, and since the library has such a solid history of supporting art and design, the partnership was a logical fit,” Gunkel said. “Art is a universal language. The library is a place that breaks down barriers and is accessible no matter someone’s background.”
Yang is a graduate assistant at the library and also serves on the Library Public Relations Committee, chaired by Gunkel. He creates book displays and posters, some of which have been accepted into the University Archives, an exciting accomplishment for any student, Gunkel said.