by Sheri Boggs
It's quickly become a North Idaho tradition; as much a part of the summer landscape as huckleberry picking and lazy fishing excursions on the lake. Art on the Green, now in its 33rd year, is one of the region's premier arts festivals, and this weekend the event returns with the usual montage of visual artists, musicians (local, regional and national), a juried art exhibition, activities for kids and families, food vendors and even jugglers.
"Since the very beginning, Art on the Green has been a great labor of love for the community," says Sue Flammia, longtime member of the Citizens' Council for the Arts and one of the original founders of Art on the Green. "Everyone gets involved: the artists, the volunteers, the school kids, the townspeople. It's remarkable that this event is still going so strong more than 30 years later."
Part of the reason for Art on the Green's continued success is that each year, the scheduled festivities include the usual crowd-pleasing elements, but a few new things are added each year to keep it fresh. One of the biggest highlights of this year's event is the debut of Art on the Green: A Celebration of Art and Community in the West ($15), a new book by Fay Wright that celebrates the history and heritage of the event.
"I've been with Art on the Green from the very beginning, and without the volunteers, there's no way we could have such a great event year after year," says Flammia, who edited the book. "Some of the volunteers are getting older, and we thought it would be a good idea to start saving some of these memories and make a book that would be a treasure for everyone connected to, or interested in, Art on the Green."
The book, which Flammia says was organized, "like a tapestry, with interwoven sections" instead of chronologically, includes stories of how a fledgling arts festival eventually became a thriving institution that channels thousands of dollars into various North Idaho arts organizations. There are stories from the various volunteers, artists, musicians, jurors and others who have been connected to Art on the Green over the years, and there's even a list in the back of the 3,000 volunteers who have given their time and hard work to the festival.
"Fay went down to Art on the Green last year and she showed up from the minute the crews began setting up and she stayed with her notebook and tape recorder through four days, from dawn to dusk, collecting as many interviews with folks as she possibly could," she says. "And then she spent a week after that working 10 hours a day compiling all the information. It was pretty impressive."
Visitors to this year's Art on the Green might also want to make plans to check out the Play Space project at the Harding Family Center on 15th St. in Coeur d'Alene. Spearheaded by Flammia and other members of the Citizens' Council for the Arts, the eight-week project is currently underway and involves the creation of a new play space and the installation of a mural designed by San Diego artist Kim Emerson, set within a framework by Spokane artist Harold Balazs.
No Art on the Green is complete without live music, and this year brings the return of Stefan Kozinski, former associate conductor of the Spokane Symphony. His concert "Music Belongs to the Open Air" features soprano Michelle Troise, himself on piano, and a menu of gorgeous night-themed selections, including Gershwin's "Sleepless Night," Brahms' "The Road to My Lover," and Gustav Mahler's "The Heavenly Life," to name a few.
"It's a pretty serious program for classical music lovers," says Carol Stacey, who helped organize the concerts for this year's event. "Stefan is currently working in Germany, and he'll be heading back in late August to work on operas. And Michelle is on her way to Paris to teach music there."
In addition to Saturday night's classical music offerings, the musical/dance entertainment includes the return of jazz vocalist Ruthie Ristich, who will perform with some of the Inland Northwest's most popular jazz performers, including Alex Bedini and Ray Grismer, a steel drum band, middle eastern dance, Reischman & amp; Miller, Erdely Hungarian Folk Dance Ensemble, Coeurimba and more.
As for the visual arts themselves, Art on the Green has more than 125 participating artists, in addition to the juried show (which this year is being presented on tables designed by the Coeur d'Alene chapter of the American Institute of Architects). One artist who was selected in the juried show last year and returns as part of the general show this year is Post Falls artist Terri Austin-Beech.
"I know they get more than 1,200 applications every year," she says. "So to be chosen as part of that small 125 to 135 [member] group is really something. It's such a boost for yourself as an artist, and also for your business."
For those that saw Austin-Beech's work last year, this year's work is a whole new ball game.
"Every year I bring new stuff, usually paintings inspired by my travels from the previous year. I'd call what I do eclectic. I'm not what you'd call a prescription painter. My paintings might be florals, or of castles, or European scenes, or even Western scenes, but more than anything I like to explore color and texture and the overall feeling of the subject in a piece."
Art on the Green typically shares its first-weekend-of-August status with two other North Idaho institutions, the Taste of the Coeur d'Alenes (see story on page 23) and the Coeur d'Alene Street Fair. Sherman Avenue from 2nd to 7th Streets will be blocked off so merchants and a host of outside vendors can take over the asphalt.
"Every kind of textile you can imagine is represented," says Sandi Bloem, co-chair of the street fair. "We'll have metal, pottery, cloth, jewelry, imported goods from Australia and east Asia... 140 vendors in addition to what the downtown merchants have to offer. There's also music on every corner, face painting for the kids, and the 'Big Fun Guy' will be there with his inflatable castle and slide."
For those who wish to see the sights at all three events, there will be a shuttle bus available that runs on a continuous loop from Art on the Green at NIC to Taste of the Coeur d'Alenes at Independence Point Park to the Street Fair on Sherman.
"People can just hop on at any given street downtown at the street fair, and the wait isn't long. The shuttle will be running the whole time. It's really nice because the events are all kind of spread out. It gives you a chance to rest your legs."
Art on the Green takes place at North Idaho College in
Coeur d'Alene on Friday, Aug. 3, from noon to 8 pm, Saturday,
August 4, from 10 am to 8 pm and Sunday, August 5,
from10 am to 5 pm. Call: (208) 667-9346.