Bainbridge Island Museum of Art has announced the recipients of the first-ever BRAVA Awards—including a Suquamish tribal elder.
Betty Pasco, 87, was named along with Kamari Bright, Julie Chen and Julie Paschkis. BRAVA stands for “BIMA Recognizes Achievement in the Visual Arts,” and was created to recognize four contemporary artists, craftspeople or makers whose work demonstrates artistic merit and excellence, technical mastery, contribution to the arts landscape, and professional accomplishment in four fields: Emerging Artist (Bright), Artist’s Book Artist (Chen), Children’s Book Illustration Artist (Paschkis), and Indigenous and First Nations Artist (Pasco).
Each recipient will receive $15,000, a news release states. The awards were made possible by a BIMA supporter who was inspired by the museum’s commitment to find ways to directly recognize and support working artists and craftspeople.
“We are thrilled to be able to honor these four individuals with a BRAVA Award in its inaugural year,” said Sheila Hughes, BIMA’s executive director. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for this museum to be able to make a meaningful difference to the lives of working artists. We hope the award serves as affirmation and recognition for each of these exceptional artists and inspires them to continue their personal journey to interpret the world through their art and craft.”
Pasco, 87, is a Suquamish tribal elder who was born and raised on Phinney Bay near Bremerton. A respected Salish weaver, traditional basket maker, graphic artist, clothing designer, and illustrator, she is most proud of her work to preserve the arts and culture of her ancestors by mentoring others—especially Native girls—through her nonprofit JayHawk Institute and the formation of “Kaya’s Girls” (Grandma’s Girls).
At age 60 with a newly acquired GED, Pasco enrolled at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM. After being offered the opportunity to live in one of her tribe’s new elder houses, she returned to the Northwest and not long after reconnected with and married Duane Pasco, a former instructor. Betty credits Duane as being one of the greatest champions for her growth, inspiring her to take on new challenges and helping her to better understand the history of Pacific Northwest Native arts and cultures.
Pasco has served in many community leadership roles including the Suquamish Elders Council, the Kitsap County Unity Coalition, the Suquamish Foundation, the Suquamish Tribe Constitution Committee, and as a co-curator of the Burke Museum’s Northwest Native Art Gallery. Her work has been or remains on display at the Skagit County Museum in La Conner, Seattle’s Stonington Gallery, BIMA, the Clearwater Casino Resort and Hotel, the Burke Museum, the Suquamish Museum, and in private collections.
Bright is a self-taught creator with a background in psychology, social services and community advocacy, the release states. She began her art journey after moving to Seattle and in lieu of formal training, has developed her practice by taking courses, watching tutorials and studying other artists. She began as a poet, expanding into other extensions of the written word, which eventually led her to videopoetry and installation.
Paschkis has illustrated over 40 books for children, 12 of which she also wrote, that have been critically acclaimed by The New York Times, Horn Book Awards, Children’s Book Council, Cybil Poetry Award, Americas Award, Aesop Accolade, and Charlotte Zolotow Honor Award.
Chen is an internationally known book artist who has been publishing under the Flying Fish Press imprint for over 36 years, per the release. Her books combine text and image with innovative structures to create experiences that engage the reader in interactions that go far beyond the simple turning of a page. She uses letterpress, photopolymer plates, and laser cutting among other traditional and contemporary technologies.