Most people in the Inland Northwest know that Coeur d'Alene's annual Art on the Green festival is one of the premier places in the region to see fine visual arts and crafts and to hear local musical performers. But the Citizens' Council for the Arts, the group responsible for Art on the Green, wants people to take part in the arts as well, so they created the Summer Art Institute, which gives local poets and writers the opportunity for intense study with nationally acclaimed instructors. This year's Institute workshops will take place Monday, July 30, through Thursday, August 2, just prior to the start of Art on the Green.
"The intention is to provide cultural opportunities for people beyond the entertainment of Art on the Green," says Jill Mikael, director of the Summer Art Institute. "We want to give people the chance to learn and participate in the arts."
The Institute has evolved to focus on the literary arts, with workshops on poetry, fiction and literary non-fiction scheduled. Each workshop runs for four days in a row, three hours each day, with attendance limited to 12 per workshop, so students become immersed in the experience. Mikael says the short, intense workshop time was planned to fit busy summer schedules. "Generally, people don't have time to do something over a longer time in the summer," says says. "It's an intense thing, but each class gets to be like a family."
In addition to her role as director, Mikael has been a student as well. For the past two years, she has taken the poetry workshop with poet and editor Gloria Vando Hickok, and she recommends the experience highly. "Gloria is fantastic, and she really gets the creative process going," Mikael says. "It's fun while you're learning. We get people of all different levels, and it's a very supportive environment. I got so many ideas that I continued writing poems after the class was over."
Vando Hickok returns for the poetry workshop this year from her home in Kansas City, where she is editor and publisher at Helicon Nine Editions, a small literary press. Her book of poems, Pomesas: Geography of the Impossible (published in 1993 by Arte Publico Press and the University of Houston) won the 1994 Thorpe Menn Award, and she has received numerous other awards and prizes for her poetry. "Gloria is just wonderful," says Theresa Colwes, the Institute's artistic director. "She's got great passion. We want to keep her forever."
Colwes looks to bring high quality instructors from all over the nation to North Idaho each summer, but this year she found one of her instructors right down the road. New to the Institute's faculty this summer is Ron McFarland, who teaches in the creative writing program at the University of Idaho in Moscow and served as Idaho's first Writer-in-Residence in 1984 and 1985. McFarland will offer a workshop of writing short fiction, with a focus on short-short or "sudden fiction," a form that varies in length from a single paragraph up to about eight pages. He has a new book of regional fiction and non-fiction, Catching First Light, due out this summer from Idaho State University Press, which follows on the heels of his book of new and selected poems, Stranger In Town, eleased last fall by Confluence Press.
Another newcomer is Edward Lebow, a writer for the Phoenix New Times, an alternative weekly. Lebow will offer a workshop on writing literary non-fiction.
"We are so lucky to get him," Colwes says. "He has done several books on the landscape of Arizona, and he's also an art critic as well as doing investigative work for the Phoenix paper." Students will write and discuss their own work, plus read examples of fine literary non-fiction by other authors.
Now in its eighth year, the Summer Art Institute's writing workshops have proven popular with local writers' groups in the Coeur d'Alene area. At $60 for a 12-hour workshop, these classes are a bargain for those wishing to explore their creativity with words, Colwes says. And they achieve the goal set out by the Citizens' Council for the Arts.
"We've kept the fees low on purpose," she says. "The fees don't even cover the cost of the teachers, but it's part of giving back to the community."
All workshops run July 30-Aug. 2. Writing
Literary Non-Fiction, with Edward Lebow, 9 am-noon; From Feeling to Form: A Holistic Approach to Writing Poems, with Gloria Vando Hickok, 1-4 pm; and Writing Short Fiction, with Ron McFarland, 5:30-8:30 pm. Cost is $60 per workshop. One credit is available through Lewis-Clark State College for an additional fee. For registration information, call the Art on the Green office at (208) 667-9346, or contact the director, Jill Mikael, via e-mail at email@example.com.