Kathleen Thorne | Island Treasure winner helps make others shine

Kathleen Thorne isn’t certain that her accomplishments in culture and the humanities actually qualify her for Island Treasure-hood.

Editor’s Note: The Island Treasure awards, established in 1999, honor those who have made outstanding community contributions in the area of the arts or humanities on Bainbridge Island.

Kathleen Thorne isn’t certain that her accomplishments in culture and the humanities actually qualify her for Island Treasure-hood.

“I don’t have a body of work,” she said. “Unless you want to count my emails.”

And that is exactly it. While the former literature major and self-described “humanities junkie” resolutely asserts that she doesn’t have an artistic talent of her own – although she said she did write one poem once – evidence of her presence exists in innumerable arts and humanities endeavors on the island, spanning a vast range of disciplines. She’s an organizer, a synthesizer, a driver.

“I do a lot of things that make people who do have a body of work in the humanities shine,” she said.

Thorne and her young family moved to Bainbridge in 1987 from Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. Even as she commuted to her job as a legal assistant in a Pioneer Square firm, she became absorbed in and fascinated by the breadth of talent she saw among members of the island community.

“I was just astonished at how many of them were poets, artists, musicians…it was very humbling,” she said.

When one of her sons became involved in children’s theater at Bainbridge Performing Arts, Thorne fulfilled the organization’s parent volunteer requirement by helping out backstage. BPA staffers glommed onto her left-brain capabilities and promoted her to the front office.

Next, she took the editorial helm of the BIAHC publication “Arts News” (now “Currents”), a monthly compendium of local happenings. Editing the publication was a similarly left-brain activity that held the added bonus of introducing her to a large number of arts and humanities players on the island.

At the time, BIAHC was also in the midst of working on the City of Bainbridge Island Cultural Element and as part of that process, determined that it needed to create more public programs on the island. Giving Thorne the reins was a natural choice, although she maintained that she probably just happened to be at the office that day.

Programs that followed, falling under the nonprofit BIAHC umbrella, included the Arts Walk, a history program called “Bainbridge Island Chautauqua: Visions and Revisions,” the Humanities Inquiries Series, the play “Letters to the Editor,” “The Bard on Bainbridge – Why We Still Read Shakespeare,” “Sharing an Ocean – Our Relationship with Pacific Rim Countries,” Poetry Month, Celluloid Bainbridge, and the Current Events Series, which began right after 9/11 with a program titled, “The Many Faces of Islam.”

Her work employed all the types of tasks she relished, from procuring speakers to reserving the rooms to organizing co-sponsorships.

“Anything that walked through the door, I got to do, which I loved,” she said. “

The wish to learn how to present complex issues completely, or at least in her estimation, adequately, led Thorne to pursue an internship at the World Affairs Council in Seattle. There, she took the WAC’s “Great Decisions” series and adapted it for Bainbridge as “Great Decisions at the Library,” a series that continues today.

Thorne completed her tenure with BIAHC last August, but with no break in activity. In her capacity as the library’s volunteer coordinator for community “book read” programs, she facilitated “Living Library,” a program in which an idea, philosophy or political persona – sometimes a potentially contentious one – came to life to offer real conversation with members of the community.

Other roles past and present include communications coordinator for Sustainable Bainbridge; camera crew volunteer for Bainbridge Island Television; docent for the Bainbridge Island Historical Society; wildlife care assistant for the West Sound Wildlife Shelter; and member of various boards of directors and steering committees, including the Bainbridge Downtown Association, the Bainbridge Youth Orchestra and the Bainbridge Island Arts Walk.

“Why I continue to get involved in these projects is that there is an incredible wealth of talent on Bainbridge Island, and I just like to hang out with them. Maybe hoping some will rub off,” she said.

If Thorne had stayed in Ballard, she thinks it’s unlikely that she would have been exposed to a fraction of the talent and community-mindedness that spills out onto the streets of this island.

That sense of honor and gratitude is why she’ll rally for this winter’s Island Treasure awards ceremony, despite her anxiety dreams about showing up in a bath towel.

“I’m always just stunned when I come up with an idea, and people say, ‘Yeah, that sounds like a good idea.’” She paused. “‘And you can do all the work.’”

A talent for cultural


Kathleen Thorne