I think we can all agree that the Guemes Island Art Initiative is one of the cooler projects happening on the island of late. It showcases the incredible amount of talent that springs from this place we call home and I think it’s time we feature the person whose vision brought it to life, February’s Artist of the Month – Kathy Whitman.
While the Art Initiative brings joy to the public, Kathy’s art is more personal and, for the moment, is mostly seen only by her. A sketch book, pen, and colored pencils are her first choice for art creations and end up taking the form of a series of travel journals. The drawings of places and humorous notes/observations about each adventure help document each place better than a photograph. Kathy is also an incredible gardener and will share her seeds in illustrated packets that are suitable for framing! Regarding offering her art to others, Kathy replied “My art is not generally for sale, but I keep meaning to think about that more seriously. Watercolor painting combined with sketching is a developing skill and occasionally there is one that is acceptable.” Kathy has designed cover art for books and when she creates something intended for sale, she will often encourage a donation to an organization like GICCA (Guemes Island Community Center Association) or NWAA (Northwest Art Alliance) rather than accept payment.
“It is important to provide service to the community, especially where there can be an art connection,” said Kathy. She is a Volunteer Extraordinaire and donates much of her time to GICCA where she has the lead role in planning and implementing Guemes Island Art Initiative projects, the website, and events that include the two art studio tours. Kathy also serves as the Vice President and volunteer recruiter for GICCA. She does more than just recruit those volunteers – more times than not she’s right beside them at work parties she’s organized.
In addition to GICCA, Kathy volunteers with NWAA to promote the art and artists of the region. This includes four events each year plus a connection to small communities, youth, various cultural groups and, most recently, the development of videos as they work to build an educational library. “I really enjoy getting to experience the creativity and passion for art that each person brings.”
Kathy’s first connection to the island was in 1973 when she and her sister, Chris Shuman, purchased a cabin in Holiday Hideaway. Her other sister, Nancy, purchased a vacation home about 10 years ago, so the whole family is here. “I moved here full time after retirement in 2017 and wake up each day feeling I am so lucky!” Kathy isn’t the only person in her family with artistic talent. Her home is a gallery filled with the work of family members. Family consists of two grown kids and a 10-year-old granddaughter who loves to visit the island to visit her grandma and the deer.
Kathy grew up in Seattle and obtained degrees in Art and Recreation at the University of Washington. Her career was with Seattle Parks and Recreation and when she retired, she was Aquatic Manager in charge of swimming pools, lifeguarded beaches, boat ramps, small craft center, spray parks, etc. “I loved the job but did not look back when I retired. I made a retirement commitment to do two things everyday… something outside and something artsy.” Much of her outside time is spent in her garden. Check out the picture of the 5-pound onion she grew! She also has loganberry plants that were starts from her late husband’s grandparents.
A distinctly non-artistic side to Kathy is her life as a competitive rowing coach, which included many years with the US Junior National Team. While on the board of directors for USRowing, she went to Moscow for the Goodwill Games. Kathy also volunteered as a licensed referee for about 40 years and still maintains a connection to the sport.
Kathy shared that she is especially inspired by people with a positive approach to life. “I try to make that choice, so I value those who volunteer their time and bring positive energy to any task or group. I try to leave problems in the past and look forward.” These are words we can all live by and Kathy is an amazing example of how to do it right!
Interested in an Artist’s Page?