Finalists for the 2023 Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber Commerce’s Citizen of the Year award include, front row, from left, Carol Labbe and Pauline Olsen. Not pictured is the award recipient, Renne Emiko Brock, who was unable to attend the chamber’s annual awards luncheon on Tuesday. Pictured with Labbe and Olsen are, back row, from left, chamber President Eran Kennedy, chamber Executive Director Beth Pratt and Lorie Fazio, Citizen of the Year committee chair. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Finalists for the 2023 Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber Commerce’s Citizen of the Year award include, front row, from left, Carol Labbe and Pauline Olsen. Not pictured is the award recipient, Renne Emiko Brock, who was unable to attend the chamber’s annual awards luncheon on Tuesday. Pictured with Labbe and Olsen are, back row, from left, chamber President Eran Kennedy, chamber Executive Director Beth Pratt and Lorie Fazio, Citizen of the Year committee chair. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Art advocate Brock named Sequim Citizen of Year

Labbe, Olsen finalists for town’s top civic award

SEQUIM — Since the 1990s, Renne Emiko Brock has made her presence felt both in the real and virtual worlds, celebrating art, creativity and community collaboration.

On Tuesday afternoon, a thankful Sequim community lauded her for those efforts.

Brock was awarded the Sequim-Dungeness Chamber of Commerce’s 2023 Citizen of the Year by a committee of former winners at the chamber’s annual awards luncheon Tuesday at The Cedars at Dungeness golf course.

Named a finalist in mid-February, along with Carol Labbe and Pauline Olsen, Brock was unable to attend the ceremony as she is traveling in Europe.

“I know Renne well — she’s a good friend of mine — and I know she would be humbled by this experience and grateful to accept this award,” said Beth Pratt, the chamber’s executive director.

Pratt said she tried to get Brock on the phone to give a kind of “call-in” acceptance speech, but as it was about 9 p.m. where the awardee was (in Switzerland), it “wasn’t quite possible.”

For nearly two decades, Brock produced and sponsored Sequim’s First Friday Art Walk and served as director for the North Olympic Fiber Arts Festival.

Laura MacMurchie, Brock’s nominator — who also was unable to attend Tuesday’s ceremony — said “Renne puts Sequim ‘on the map’ in terms of art.”

Brock also is involved with the Sequim Botanical Garden Society, has volunteered for the Sequim-Dungeness Chamber of Commerce, the City of Sequim’s Sunshine Festival, and the Sequim Irrigation Festival.

She was lauded for being “an excellent teacher, a community advocate and a great role model for women” in one of her letters of support.

Pratt on Tuesday read aloud the nomination letter by MacMurchie, who noted that Brock “dreamed up an artist economy where one did not exist.”

Brock is also the Multimedia Communications Program Coordinator at Peninsula College, and since 1993 has taught fine art, fiber arts, digital arts, social media, multimedia web, video, personal and professional branding, marketing, collaborative community building and art enterprise with Peninsula College, Monterey Peninsula College, at conferences and independently.

At the college, she has taught a variety of courses that encompass digital storytelling, multimedia web studies, infographics and data visualization, digital video, 3-D design, social media marketing and more.

Brock earned her bachelor’s degree of science in art from Lewis & Clark College, a master’s of fine art degree in visual art from Vermont College at Norwich University, and she graduated from the first pioneering class of the University of Washington Certificate in Virtual Worlds program.

Since 1995, she has served on several nonprofit organization boards and community committees.

Other finalists

Labbe was nominated by Kyra Humphrey and described as “one of those ‘behind the scenes’ angels for our community.” After three decades working in the Sequim School District, Labbe worked with the Sequim Guild for Seattle Children’s Hospital to fund for uncompensated care and research for children.

In 2023, the Sequim guild raised more than $75,000, and more than 1,000 Clallam County children were seen during fiscal year 2022-23 at Seattle Children’s.

Labbe’s work, chamber representatives said, has resulted in creative partnerships, new relationships with other organizations, and new ways to connect with donors.

She said afterward that Children’s Hospital had played a significant role in her life more than once: she was born with “blue baby syndrome,” a condition where there is not enough oxygen in the blood. But Labbe said she was able to get a blood transfusion at Children’s.

“I like to say they saved my life twice,” she said. “I want to pay it back.”

Finding inspiration in her own career, and the care needed for her sister and husband as they aged, Olsen founded the senior support organization Lois’ Legacy, dedicated to improving the quality of care both in nursing and assisted living facilities.

Lois’ Legacy also provides resources and information to seniors who wish to age in their own home and to direct their own care.

According to nominator Petra Reninger, Olsen is “a wonderful role model to other retirees in how to thrive while aging gracefully.”

Reninger on Tuesday noted that Lois’ Legacy served 268 local seniors in 2023, and it now boasts 17 volunteers and a six-person advisory council.

The organization will celebrate its 10th year of service, Reninger said, and “Pauline’s leadership is a big reason for that.”

Sound Publishing was the Sunshine Sponsor of the event, and chamber board President Eran Kennedy presented the award alongside Lorie Fazio, Citizen of the Year committee chair.

For more information about this or other chamber events, see sequimchamber.com or contact Pratt at director@sequimchamber.com or 360-683-6197.

________

Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at editor@sequimgazette.com.

Renne Emiko Brock
Renne Emiko Brock, pictured “yarn bombing” in 2019, has been named the Sequim-Dungeness Chamber of Commerce’s 2023 Citizen of the Year.

Renne Emiko Brock Renne Emiko Brock, pictured “yarn bombing” in 2019, has been named the Sequim-Dungeness Chamber of Commerce’s 2023 Citizen of the Year.

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