George Shannon and Michele Van Slyke

Congratulations to 2012 Island Treasure Award winners George Shannon and Michele Van Slyke! They will be honored at a sold-out celebration on Feb. 25, 2012, at IslandWood on Bainbridge Island.

George Shannon

George Shannon is known internationally as a beloved author who has published more than 40 books, including 30 picture books. He has taught writing workshops both nationally and internationally, is a professional storyteller, and is the recipient of a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. He serves on the board of the Bainbridge Public Library and has given countless hours as a member of the Field’s End board, by conducting teaching workshops, helping to plan conferences, and serving as master of ceremonies. George also generously shares his writer’s journey on his website, a treasure trove for writers of all ages.

Before moving to Bainbridge Island, George served as a children’s librarian at an elementary school and a public library in Kentucky and is currently delighting students at the Island School as the school librarian. Prior to being hired as the school’s librarian, George was a regular story time reader at the Island School.

George says that his goal as an author is to make his stories sound as if they are being told out loud, with the rhythm of the words providing as much emotion as the words themselves. He enjoys the challenge of sharing a story in as few words as possible and with a vital theme inside a “light-hearted” plot. He also likes to give the reader a chance to look beyond the obvious, as in his book, Tomorrow’s Alphabet. There he presents the reader with a puzzle in which A is for seeds, B is for eggs, C is for milk, and so on, explaining that the seed is tomorrow’s Apple, the egg is tomorrow’s Bird and the milk is tomorrow’s Cheese.

George says that his life has always been richly wrapped in stories and books. He remembers his parents reading to him as a young boy and he remembers taking up the torch and reading to his younger brothers.

“Books and family stories filled our home, and going to the library was as common as going to the market,I began writing stories when they were given as assignments in elementary school, but I came to enjoy the writing so much I began writing extra ones. Then I wrote even when there was no assignment at all. My dream of making books was so vivid I submitted my first ‘formal’ children’s manuscript to a publisher when I was sixteen. Eleven more years of school, work, reading, writing, and luck finally brought about Lizard’s Song, my first children’s book to be accepted.”

On his website, George explains that inspiration for his stories comes from what he thinks makes his home. According to George, his stories are about “What I love. What I fear. Things that have happened to me, and things I hope will happen. Things I like about me. Things I dislike about me. Things I’m starting to understand. Things that still confuse me.”

Ask any of his fans, young and old alike, and they will tell you that you’ll find little bits of what George calls home tucked inside the stories; his willingness to share these bits with his readers makes for extraordinary storytelling. George’s generosity to island readers and writers and his passion for the magic of storytelling make us all very excited to celebrate George Shannon as an Island Treasure.

Michele Van Slyke

Even if they don’t know her name, the people of Bainbridge Island know Michele Van Slyke’s work. The sliding walls of steel and aluminum for our City Council Chambers, the metalwork on the reader board, the entry bench and the “Reading Hands” computer-back screens at the Bainbridge Public Library, the windvanes at the Hillandale development, numerous public benches around Winslow, the donor recognition wall at IslandWood, and the steel swimming fish in the entry of Sakai Intermediate School, created from student designs, are all examples of Michele Van Slyke’s work.

Born and raised in France, Michele studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and the University of Heidelberg in Germany before finally settling on Bainbridge Island in 1971 with her husband and fellow artist Kent Van Slyke.

In addition to her public art installations on Bainbridge Island, Michele also has work at Children’s, Swedish, and Virginia Mason Hospitals in Seattle; the University of Washington Bothell; The Washington Park Zoo in Portland, Ore., as well as on projects in Edmonds, Lynnwood, Auburn, Kent and, further afield, Japan and China.

Her passion for giving the public a special experience in the built environment is also evident in the acclaimed Bainbridge Public library, where she coordinated the public art pieces that were included in the remodel of the library, bringing together a rich array of pieces by many of our Island artists.

Although best know for her steel sculpture, Michele has worked in many media, including fiberglass, resin, and weaving. Of late, she’s even begun writing children’s literature.

A strong advocate of the value of public art in out environment, Michele has served as a spokesperson for island artists by encouraging our City Council to understand that while all work on our public buildings must be paid for, if we work with artists, we can have that work done beautifully and it will always be there for us and generations to come.

Michele has also served as an ambassador and teacher, leading a delegation of local artists and art-related business owners to China for a cultural and professional exchange. Under Michele’s tutelage, the group visited art schools, artists’ studios and met with educators, performers, and students to help develop cultural and professional relationships. Upon their return, the group shared their experiences with various Island cultural groups.

No matter the venue, Michele’s sculptures, benches, gates and other pieces are always whimsical and bring delight to those who view and experience her work. Her quaities and accomplishments make her a true Bainbridge Island treasure.

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