When Mel McCuddin's show opens Friday, it will be doing so in the stunning new surroundings of Coeur d'Alene's Art Spirit Gallery. Owner Steve Gibbs made the decision to move closer to downtown last winter and bought one of the most unlikely retail shops on Sherman Ave. Formerly the home of the Shred Shed, the new space had those office-like low acoustic-tile ceilings, white walls, turquoise trim and fluorescent lighting. It's hard to tell from the old pictures, but it may even have had... shag carpeting. Undaunted, Gibbs and his wife poked around the new building looking for any diamond-in-the-rough qualities it might have.
"We would make a little hole in the plaster, and take a look around, and then dig a little bit more if it looked like there was something interesting in there," Gibbs recalls.
Their curiosity paid off as they discovered brick walls, antique glass cube windows, a gorgeous hardwood floor and rafters hidden behind not one, but two, false ceilings. Gibbs built a mezzanine level that curves gently towards the front door, and artist friends helped him paint the bathrooms a rich terra cotta color. Antique doors from Brown's Building Supply and hand-made latches give the place a warm, sturdy feel. Although a lot of the current art will need to be moved to make room for McCuddin's show, the gallery is the perfect showcase for Mary Farrell's large nudes, Gina Freuen's ceramics, Michael Horswill's mixed-media pieces, Robert Grimes' intricate carvings and Katherine Nelson's arresting charcoal sketches of the Palouse.
Gibbs says most folks have had no problem finding his new digs (he's just three blocks away from the old spot) and in fact, his grand opening was standing room only.
"It was this mass of humanity. Seriously, I think there were 1,000 people at the last reception," he says. "Harold Balazs was here and he looked around and then he turned to me and said, 'This is bigger than baseball.' "
No word yet on whether they'll be selling hot dogs and 50-cent beer.