Devon Johnson-Brown goes to school at Vancouver School of Arts and Academics and starts for the Hudson’s Bay girls basketball team
Or is it athlete first, then artist?
“I definitely think I’m getting the best of both worlds,” said Devon Johnson-Brown, a photographer, a potter, and a basketball player.
A junior at Vancouver School of Arts and Academics, Johnson-Brown is also a starter on one of the top girls basketball teams in Clark County, representing Hudson’s Bay.
“I’m a very artistic person, and I also love sports,” she said. “It was hard for me to find that combo.”
Until she found VSAA, accepted into that school as a sixth grader.
“At my school, they allow you to really focus on your art form. You get quality time to work on your art. You have smaller classes, so the teachers can really focus and help you. I love that so much,” she said.
VSAA does not offer athletics, though. Instead, athletes are allowed to compete for their district schools that do offer sports.
Johnson-Brown loves being a Hudson’s Bay Eagle, too.
“I get to be with several amazing girls who are great at basketball and enhance my craft in sports, too,” she said.
On Tuesday night, the Eagles improved to 6-2 this season, 4-1 in Class 2A Greater St. Helens League play. Johnson-Brown made her first 3-pointer of the night and ended up with seven points. On this squad, she is known more for her defense and determination, one of the unsung heroes, according to coach Michael Rainville.
During the day, beyond traditional academics, she excels in photography and pottery.
“I love taking portraits of my friends and family,” she said. “That’s my favorite part, just capturing emotions.”
She said pottery is relaxing.
“Playing with the clay and creating plates and functional pieces that you can actually use, showcase, and give gifts to others … that is really special,” Johnson-Brown said.
She used to be in the theater, as well — an artist in so many different arenas.
Basketball, though, has always been with her, too. She started playing organized ball in the third grade, hooked right away, she said.
It was during the fifth grade when she learned of the possibility of going to VSAA.
The application process takes time. She spent a day at the school, going through workshops with the theater as well as visual arts. She had to write an essay. And there was a one-on-one interview with a teacher.
“I’m good with public speaking so I wasn’t as nervous,” she said.
Still, it took a couple of months before she learned that she was accepted.
Johnson-Brown was riding in a car on the way to Spokane for a basketball tournament when her mom got the news.
“I was super excited. Then I realized all my friends from elementary school weren’t going to be there. So it’s going to be fun but a little sad, But I was still extremely excited,” she said.
An athlete at VSAA has to have strong communication and prioritization skills in order to conquer the demanding and different schedules.
The student-athlete at Hudson’s Bay, for example, starts her day at 7:30 a.m. Students at VSAA start at 9:35 a.m. Basketball practice starts before VSAA’s school day ends.
Johnson-Brown leaves her school early on those practice days, but she is in constant communication with her teachers.
“Our teachers also have office hours before school, and there is ‘Tuesday help’ and ‘Thursday help.’ It helps a lot being able to have those extra resources,” Johnson-Brown said.
All of the planning and practicing, plus game nights … they all add up to some long hours.
“I do it because I love basketball,” Johnson-Brown said. “I love the girls I play with. It would feel weird and kind of out of routine if I weren’t to do it anymore. My day-to-day schedule would be a little off.”
On the court, she is Energy with a capital E, especially when she is in the zone.
“I feel my heart’s beating a little fast, I’m super happy, and I’m very loud. ‘Let’s go! Let’s Go!’ I’m really pumped up,” she said. “I do a lot of positive physical reinforcement, like high-fives. It feels like you’re relaxed but very hectic.”
An interesting description, huh?
“It’s a hectic-relaxed state,” she reiterated.
Being in the zone as an artist is an experience, as well.
“Sometimes when you’re looking through the camera lens, you don’t quite see how it’s going to turn out,” she said of her photography skills. “You see what your eye sees but not what the lens can quite see. When you get it on the computer, and you see that crisp, quality image, it’s like ‘Oh, thank you. I finally did it. The photo people were with me.’ It’s just refreshing.”
The basketball court is a “safe place to relax and just let go of the things that might have stressed me out before in the day,” she said.
“The arts are a way to express my inner thoughts without actually having to communicate verbally.”
Johnson-Brown is thriving in both of her worlds, representing Vancouver School of Arts and Academics and Hudson’s Bay High School.
“I have an inclusive space to work freely and express my creative side without feeling judged,” she said of VSAA. “You have the opportunity to really be yourself and just continue to further your career in the arts.”
Then she gets to hang out with her teammates at Hudson’s Bay.
“This school embodies a lot of unity and helpfulness toward each other,” she said. “Just being part of this community … it’s really a family.”
She will finish this academic year and have one more before she heads to college. She wants to play college basketball and she will continue to work in the arts. Interestingly enough, though, she wants to study in the medical field to become a psychiatrist.
Devon Johnson-Brown is accustomed, after all, to taking on new challenges. She wants all younger students to understand there are options.
“To future students who go to VSA, just know you have amplified amounts of opportunities to pursue whatever you want,” Johnson-Brown said. “And you don’t necessarily have to leave the school to pursue other passions that you might have.”