Are we islanders living in the 'Asian century'?

An ongoing inquiry examines what it means to share an ocean.

What happens in the Pacific Rim doesn’t stay in the Pacific Rim. From politics to business, events there directly impact Bainbridge Island.

This year’s Arts & Humanities Council’s Inquiry, “Sharing an Ocean: Living on the Pacific Rim” examines how and why.

“The 19th century was Europe. The 20th century was America. A lot of people are calling the 21st century the Asian century,” said Kathleen Thorne, BIAHC program director. “Washington state is going to be really important and impacted on a whole lot of different levels.”

An inquiry addresses a current concern from different viewpoints.

Through speakers, theater, poetry, music, art and literature, participants will learn the cultural, economic, environmental, social and political aspects of the relationship with Asian countries. Numerous Bainbridge organizations, businesses and individuals are taking part in the event, which continues into June.

“Many experts predict that it is the developments in the Pacific Rim, and especially the reemergence of China as a global power, that will define the coming century,” Thorne said.

The idea sprang from a chautauqua, or retreat, seven years ago during an Arts Walk at Waterfront Park.

“We did a Bainbridge history talk with living history roles and people were really excited about it,” Thorne said. “We wanted to continue this with a multidisciplinary cultural program...and decided to do an inquiry.

“I got the idea to take a humanities topic and try to look at it with all humanities. Make it multidisciplinary. It’s harder to make it more interesting to people, to really engage and educate people about an important current topic.”

The first inquiry was culture and the American character. The inquiry utilized “films and poetry and looked at all the components and what it says about us,” she said.

Although the current inquiry may seem as if it has more events, that is not true.

“It’s about the same number but we’re stretching it out a little longer,” Thorne said. “It was squeezed more when it was all in one month.”

This made it difficult for residents to attend all the parts they wanted, so the scheduling change was made.

A program committee of BIAHC board members chooses the inquiry themes, with input from anyone who cares to give it.

“The committee looks at what’s going on in the world, what fits best with the community and other organizations and what we can afford,” Thorne said. “Usually when I am looking at topics, I am looking for something I don’t know very much about. I feel like it’s really something we should pay attention to.”

In the past, inquiries have explored pop culture as a mirror of American values, the food and culture, the challenges and consequences of exploration and why Shakespeare matters.

The next “Sharing An Ocean” event is the Island Theatre’s production of “Seascape” at 7:30 p.m. March 18 and 19 at the Bainbridge Library. Written by 1976 Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee, the work examines the significance of life when two couples, one human and one reptilian, meet on a deserted beach. The event is free.

The inquiry’s keynote speaker, former governor Gary Locke, will be at the Odyssey Maritime Discovery Museum in Seattle from 4:30 to 7 p.m. on March 29. The museum depicts the area’s links to Puget Sound and the North Pacific. Following a tour and a light supper, Locke will discuss the growing trade and economic developments in the Asian Pacific Rim countries, particularly China, and how these developments affect the Pacific Northwest.

Locke will have recently returned from a trip to China and will have the latest information, Thorne said.

Families are welcome to attend this event. Tickets are $40 per person; family rates are available. The museum is at Pier 66 on Alaskan Way, within walking distance of Colman Dock. Reservations are required by March 22.

“We hope families come out,” Thorne said. “The maritime museum is an interactive exhibit of the whole industry of the ocean,” including commercial fishing, shipping, trade, transportation, recreation and marine protection. “The parents can listen to Locke and the kids can see the exhibits.”

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Ebb and flo

This year’s Bainbridge Island Humanities Inquiry explores “Sharing an Ocean: Living on the Pacific Rim” and continues into June. Some events are free of charge; others have a fee. See or call 842-7901 for tickets, ongoing exhibits, updates and background resources.

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