And the 2024 Island Treasure Award Winners are…   

Island Treasure Awards logoFounded in 1999, the Island Treasure Awards (ITA) are presented annually to individuals who have made outstanding contributions in the arts and humanities on Bainbridge Island. The ITA resumed this year after a three-year pandemic hiatus and will be celebrating the newest Island Treasures at the new Buxton Center for Performing Arts (BPA) on February 10, 2024.

The 2024 Island Treasure Award Winners are:
Caroline Cooley Browne:  Fiber Arts
Gina Corpuz: Multicultural Education
Lucy Ostrander: Filmmaking

The process for selection after the nomination period is modeled after the same process used by the MacArthur Foundation Fellows. “Nominators write a confidential letter to the Island Treasure Awards committee, answering a few questions about their nominee describing the person they are nominating,” explains Ellen Bush, Island Treasure Awards Coordinator. “The nominations focus on the quality and the creativity of the nominees work and how this work has benefitted the cultural fabric of Bainbridge Island. These nominations are researched by the ITA committee and then passed on to the members of the selection jury. After the jury has made the selection, the names are presented to the ITA committee who then notifies the winners. The winning candidates are asked not to tell anyone outside their own family until the results are announced publicly in January.”

island-treasure-awards-trophy image courtesy of Island Treasure AwardsEach winner was selected by the jury that serves confidentially, and are chosen for their extensive experience and familiarity with the arts and humanities on Bainbridge Island. “The jurors bring experience from many different cultural perspectives,” Ellen says. “The jurors are given a packet of nomination materials and then meet for a day of deliberation guided by a facilitator. The jurors arrive at their decisions and then disband after promising not to reveal any aspect of the procedure or their participation.”

Our new treasures will be celebrated at the Island Treasure Award Celebration on February 10, 2024 at the Buxton Center for Bainbridge Performing Arts. During the ceremony each Treasure receives an unrestricted $5,000 cash award and a commemorative candleholder designed by Island artist Kent Van Slyke. Tickets for the celebration can be purchased at or by calling 206.842.1246.

About the 2024 Island Treasure Award Winners

Caroline Cooley Browne photo
Caroline Cooley Browne

Caroline Cooley Browne – Visual Arts: Fiber Arts and Painting – Caroline has been a working, productive artist for over thirty years and has been very active in promoting the arts on Bainbridge Island through her board and committee work. She is an enthusiastic teacher, mentor, and promoter of the arts on a grass roots level and a strong believer in each individual’s ability to connect with art in his or her own way, she provides knowledge and teaches the arts to others through many mediums.

She served as the Art Director for Exhibition, an arts magazine showcasing Bainbridge Island visual and literary artists, and also served on the steering committee for Bainbridge in Bloom, a fundraiser for Bainbridge Arts and Humanities. She was a founding member of Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network (BARN) and currently she serves on the board of directors.

In addition, Caroline has taught classes and workshops at many island venues including BARN and Esther’s. As a teacher, she moves beyond the technique and works with students to explore the medium and then apply what they discover. She instructs on the basic techniques involved, but urges students to apply their own artistic interpretations. Her approach is “give it a try,” allowing students to see how they might evolve the technique to serve their work.

As an artist she works in painting, sculpture, and fiber art. Her work has appeared at Bainbridge Arts and Crafts, Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, Collective Visions in Bremerton, Vashon Center for the Arts, and many other galleries in Washington and Oregon.

Caroline continues to expand her art through participation in many workshops across the country such as the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine and the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina. To learn more about Caroline, visit BAC’s YouTube channel here for an in-depth interview conducted by Debra Ruzinsky, BAC Executive Director.

Gina Corpuz
Gina Corpuz

Gina Corpuz – Multicultural Education – Growing up on Bainbridge Island, Gina was very involved in the Filipino world of her father, and unaware that her mother was wrenched from her Squamish Nation tribe in British Columbia when she was five years old and sent to an Indian Residential School. Her mother was later sent to Bainbridge Island at the age of 15 with other First Nation women recruited to work in the strawberry fields that once covered the island.

After she learned her mother’s story, Gina was determined to share it with others and help educate them about “the hidden history of Bainbridge Island.” She celebrates that story in the new short documentary, “Honor Thy Mother.”

The film tells how Gina’s mother and 35 other women from 19 different tribes in Canada, Washington State, and Alaska migrated to Bainbridge Island in the late 1930s and early 1940s to pick berries for Japanese American farmers. The young women, many of them still teenagers, met and married Filipino immigrant bachelors who also had immigrated to work on the island’s farms. The film includes accounts from several children of those unions who describe the struggles they faced growing up part Filipino and part Native, of not belonging fully to one or the other community, and also of being rejected by the White community on Bainbridge. One man interviewed for the film talks about being “looked at as scum of the earth.”

Gina is a long-time social justice activist and retired educator, who helped found the non-profit Indipinos of Bainbridge Island and Vicinity and remains an active member of the Filipino-American Community organization.

“Honor Thy Mother” is produced and directed by Bainbridge Island resident Lucy Ostrander of Stourwater Pictures, who specializes in filming historical and social issues. Gina is the film’s executive director. The 31-minute film took two years to make and is a selection of the Social Justice Film Festival, Local Sightings Film Festival, and film festivals in Tacoma, Bend, and Friday Harbor among others. There are several screenings in coming weeks.

Lucy Ostrander
Lucy Ostrander

Lucy Ostrander – Arts: Filmmaking – Lucy moved to Bainbridge Island in 1996 with her husband, and, along with her filmmaking partners, she launched Stourwater Pictures. The award-winning production company specializes in historical and social issue documentary films, finding the essential narratives to produce accurate, absorbing, and entertaining films that best honor and reflect them. Focusing on discovering and telling the stories of everyday people who have lived extraordinary and meaningful lives. Their award-winning films have been screened in multiple festival and universities, as well as broadcast nationally and internationally.

Lucy’s filmed interviews with Junkoh Harui and others in Red Pines and with many Island Filipinos in Island Roots caught a moment in time before the passing of this immigrant generation and their children. Her film Port Blakely: Memories of a Mill Town depicts the rise and fall of the largest sawmill in the world and the lives of its Native American, Scandinavian, and Japanese workers.

The film FUMIKO HAYASHIDA: THE WOMAN BEHIND THE SYMBOL was broadcast on PBS throughout the Pacific Northwest in 2010, and screened at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, the D.C. Asian American Film Festival, the Port Townsend Film Festival, the Tacoma Film Festival, and the Gig Harbor Film Festival. In addition, Stourwater has worked with the Japanese-American community to record oral histories of the 1942 forced evacuation from the Island.

Lucy continues to document our history, and her films are an invaluable teaching aide for current Bainbridge Islanders. Her latest effort, Honor Thy Mother in collaboration with Gina Corpuz is another important piece of Island History and is now part of the school curriculum.

“Stourwater Pictures educates through well-researched documentaries conveying the human and humane stories of underrepresented groups that expands our understanding and appreciation of Washington State history,” said Gail M. Nomura, Associate Professor, American Ethnic Studies
University of Washington.

About The Island Treasure Awards – The Story So Far…

In 1998, during a meeting of the then Arts and Humanities Fund, committee member Tom Schworer raised the issue of how to recognize and appreciate fellow Islanders for their unique creativity and commitment to the arts or humanities. The committee looked at a national model established in the early 1980’s: the MacArthur Foundation (“Genius”) Awards. Its program dedicated awards to people who in the everyday world might not be appreciated or recognized for their originality, creativity, and self-directed pursuits. Cynthia Sears took the lead in turning this idea into a reality on Bainbridge Island.

It took more than a year to get the award procedures and celebration up and running. The basic idea was to shine a spotlight on perhaps less well-known individuals whose body of work displayed their unique voice and vision and their ongoing commitment to their field. As to process, there would be no application; the key principle would be anonymity – not easy in a community as close-knit and loquacious as Bainbridge! This would apply to everyone involved: the nominees, the nominators who identify and propose potential candidates, and the jurors who decide on the winners. This is still how the process operates and it has kept the awards free from pressures or politics, and allowed it to be an authentic representation of the community’s choices. To date, more than 250 Islanders have served as nominators and jurors and have helped choose the Island Treasures. Although they are anonymous, their work in support of recognizing our cultural heroes is greatly appreciated.

The inaugural Island Treasure Awards were bestowed in a January 31, 2000 ceremony to historian Gerald Elfendahl and photographer Joel Sackett. Since then, an additional 42 individuals who have demonstrated unique visions of the role of the arts or humanities on Bainbridge Island have been similarly honored including, sadly, four who have since passed away: Frank Buxton, Frank Kitamoto, Bob McAllister, and Sally Robison. The inaugural awards were presented in a celebration at the Four Swallows Restaurant (now closed). In 2002, Paul and Debbi Brainerd offered the use of the newly-opened IslandWood Great Hall; it was ITA’s home through 2014. Then followed the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art from 2015 through 2017 and the Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network (BARN) in 2018. The 2019 20th Anniversary celebration of the Island Treasure Awards marked ITA’s return to IslandWood.

Since 2002, the award program has included videos of the life story and work of that year’s award winners. Originally these were dedicated on-location interviews and recordings made by Frank Buxton. In 2011, Steve Stolee joined with Frank to produce and edit the videos, and in 2013 Steve took over the task. Thanks to their efforts, each of the presentations has been an inspiring and meaningful vignette acquainting us with the life and work of the honorees.

February 2020 marked the 21st Island Treasure Awards Celebration. You are invited to discover and enjoy the individuals who have contributed and continue to contribute to the richness and cultural well-being of Bainbridge Island by going to the Island Treasure Awards page and reading about our amazing Island Treasures.

The Award is sponsored by the Island Treasure Foundation, a Section 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

*Information and images provided by Ellen Bush, ITA Coordinator and the ITA website.

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