Shelia Larkin (Artist-in-Residence, 1997)

A clear lake shows reefs under the water and the image is bordered in trees and islands
Lake Superior's water clarity is demonstrated at Middle Islands Passage

NPS Photo

Isle Royale Reflection

"When I arrived on Isle Royale for the first time in July of 1997 I felt great excitement to be there, as I had long heard about the island’s pristine wilderness. But, arriving at the cove that harbors the artist’s cabin, I was unprepared for the sheer beauty. A ranger took us up to the point in front of the cabin, to the expansive view. Standing there, looking out, he remarked wryly, “If an artist can’t get inspired up here, I don’t know where she could!” It was at that spot on a windy and sunny day, seated at a weathered bench, that I wrote “From A Point of Stone,” a song that seemed almost to come out whole. From that bench I saw the northern lights and amazing sunsets and heard the rush of gulls and loons above and mergansers below. At the height of that point you share the sky with the birds and can be startled awake in the early morning hours by the call of a loon as it wings just over the roof of the cabin. I spent many hours at that bench reading, singing, and taking in the sights and spirit of the place. It is an honored spot.

Honored is a word that well describes my time as artist-in-residence on Isle Royale. It gave me the chance to look into myself (including meeting some fears), acclimate to the rhythms and moods of the lake and island, and feel a joining of art and place. My time on Isle Royale was a highlight in my life. I met wonderful folks, experienced indescribable beauty on a daily basis, and absorbed the essence of the natural environment: the sky, birds, moose, lush forests, mists, thimbleberries, rocks, and, always, the water. That type of absorption forms a pool of experience that I somewhat unconsciously draw from when I create music. I grieved for weeks, even months, after leaving the island, for the sense of place and immersion that I’d felt.

Back in southern Wisconsin I placed photos of the island throughout my home. One of my strongest memories is that of paddling solo up Tobin Harbor, peering into the water as I glided, and shuddering a bit as I clearly viewed huge boulders that lay on the bottom of the harbor many feet below in the ice-cold water. Clarity, strength, complexity, and delicate beauty—these are all qualities of Isle Royale. It has become a part of me, my music, my spirit, and I hope to have a long and deepening connection with the island for years to come."

- Shelia Larkin*


About the Artist*

Shelia Larkin was an Isle Royale Artist-in-Residence from July 18th to August 6th, 1997. She grew up in an Irish-American household, surrounded by family, music, religion, and scouting. In college she straddled two majors: music and environmental studies. She has a degree in music from the University of Wisconsin and a degree in music therapy from the University of Minnesota.

She performed as a solo piano player for fifteen years and co-founded a Celtic band called Brigits Fire. A featured artist on a Narada Productions recording entitled First Light (1996), she is currently recording some of the material she wrote as a result of her residency on Isle Royale. In addition, she has practiced music therapy in a wide variety of settings for over seventeen years. She is presently living in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, and was working as an elementary school counselor in the nearby town of Sullivan until 2011.

*[Source for all Shelia's page content: Root, Robert and Jill Burkland, editors. (2000). The Island Within Us. Houghton, MI: Isle Royale Natural History Association. p 114. Print.]

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Last updated: January 15, 2020

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