Congratulations to 2014 winners of the Island Treasure Awards, Janie Ekberg and John Willson!
After teaching middle school and high school, Janie Ekberg turned her attention to the fiber arts and began creating the iconic “Janie Sweatshirt.” As a result of the success of this endeavor, Janie started Calliope, a fiber arts company. Her sparkly clothing gave a new definition to wearable art. As a fiber artist she has also created hundreds of costumes for BPA productions, as well as contributing her talents to other Island cultural groups, such as the vests which are worn by Side-by-Side, an Island vocal group that Janie also performed with for four years.
In 1990, Janie began visiting Russia as a delegate for various art and theater exchanges. She quickly became aware of the plight of Russian orphans. She saw a unique opportunity to help empower these orphans through positive childhood experiences, and to combine this effort with a way to break down cultural barriers, and to encourage Bainbridge’s youth to take an educational, hands-on approach to involvement in the outside world. In 1999 Janie led a group of dedicated Islanders in the establishment of a new Island nonprofit, Camp Siberia.
While Camp Siberia is an amazing humanitarian effort for the Russian orphans, for the Bainbridge students it is multi-cultural, hands-on class in the humanities. After being selected as counselors, Janie leads the students through a series of seminars focusing on Russian culture. Each summer she accompanies the students to Russia where they are given the opportunity to use the lessons they have learned and immerse themselves in the Russian culture. Students who have been fortunate enough to participate in Camp Siberia describe it as an extraordinary, life-changing learning experience.
John Willson has been described as having a stubborn dedication to the humanities. John is a widely published poet, winner of the Pushcart Prize, and has been honored by many organizations including the Academy of American Poets, the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference, and the Artist Trust of Washington. His work has appeared in various literary journals. One of his poems is featured at the Bainbridge Island High School swimming pool where it forms a permanent part of, Maggie Smith’s (another Island Treasure) public arts project ‘Water Quilt’. Willson has also published a collection of poems, The Son We Had.
John is committed to celebrating the written word both through his work at Eagle Harbor Books and the poetry workshops he teaches through the BI Park District. At the bookstore he produces the print newsletter as well as the e-newsletter, giving Islanders wonderful recommendations for literature. Along co-worker Ann Combs, he also created the annual Eagle Harbor Books “Limerick Contest.” This annual has been described as a raucous community event and a good time for all Islanders. John has been teaching the Poetry Writing Workshop with the park district since 1991. Through his classes he has m
entored many Island poets and his students have developed their own voice, participating in Poetry Corners, Poetry Slams, and the Story Slam as well as off-Island poetry events. Several of his students have gone on to publish poetry books of their own, but they are quick to point out the much valued lessons and support they received from teacher.