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Playing in the Park 

by Sheri Boggs

The poster for this year's Art on the Green event says it all: a grass-green woman -- she could pass for Bride of the Jolly Green Giant, in fact -- grins at the viewer with the unchecked glee of someone who's just danced her butt off in public, or maybe bought an incredible set of handcrafted mugs for a great price. Crowning her head is an elaborate tableau of everything that Art on the Green is: white canvas booths, folks with kids, guitar-playing musicians, artists proudly displaying their works and, of course, pine trees. Lots and lots of pine trees.

Summer is art festival season here in the Inland Northwest (as it is pretty much all over the U.S.), and if you didn't get your fill at ArtFest earlier this summer, you've got your chance again with this weekend's Art on the Green in Coeur d'Alene. Now in its 34th year, the festival once again offers 135 artists, live entertainment, hands-on activities for the kids, artist demonstrations, a juried art show and concessions. It also takes place the same weekend as A Taste of the Coeur d'Alenes and the Coeur d'Alene Street Fair, with a free shuttle bus running a continuous loop between downtown Coeur d'Alene and the NIC campus all weekend.

"It's an incredibly creative time for so many people," says Sue Flammia, one of Art on the Green's founding members. "It's so exciting to have the performers

and the art."

In fact, the music and dance portion of Art on the Green has grown to such a point that many visitors attend just to see a certain act as much as they go for the visual arts.

"They've got some terrific entertainment lined up this year," says Flammia. "We have fencers, and we're also going to have madrigals this year, which we haven't had for a very long time. Cynthia Haberman-Marlett, who is both a singer and choir director, put together the group, which is called the Northwest Sacred Music Chorale."

In addition to such returning local favorite acts as Sidhe, Alex Bedini, Coeurimba and Scott Kirby, a few new names are already generating some buzz for this year's festival. The Spectrum Dance Theater of Seattle presents what they describe as "the American aesthetic of dance" -- contemporary jazz dancing that is artistic, technical and expressive, and which brings the work of top choreographers (including Bob Fosse protegee Ann Reinking and Momix co-founder Daniel Ezralow) to the Pacific Northwest. While Spectrum is Saturday night's big performance event, Friday night's headlining act, the Hammertoes, is something completely different. Discovered by an Art on the Green board member on a visit to Arizona last year, the Hammertoes became a quickly sought-after commodity.

"They sound like they're going to be dynamite," says Flammia of the group, which incorporates classical and electrical guitar, tuba, upright bass, drums and everything from Croatian rhythms to Latin percussion.

Art on the Green has a longstanding tradition of donating work, materials, time and money to worthy community causes, and this year's event is no different. "Every year we give a painting to a nonprofit, which is the Juvenile Justice Building this year, a school, which is Bryan School, and North Idaho College," says Flammia. "Representatives from each entity get to come select the one they want from the juried show, and the rest are for sale to the public."

Art on the Green is also in close partnership with the Play Space project at the Harding Family Center on Fifth Street. Play Space, which debuted last year, is a multi-year project incorporating murals (including one by San Diego artist Kim Emerson), community input and metal work by Harold Balazs.

Flammia says the volunteer spirit that infuses so many Art on the Green projects year-round is an absolutely integral part of the event itself. More than 500 volunteers help out annually, including at the food booths.

"These aren't restaurants; they're all volunteers," says Flammia. "We're especially excited about the vegetarian food this year, which is being offered by the grandson and granddaughter of one of the original Art on the Green food vendors."

And of course the visual arts are still every bit as important to Art on the Green as they were when the festival began 34 years ago. The juried show has an especially strong crafts section this year, and the artist booths include such regular festival participants as Randy Sedlak-Ford, Laura Dahl, Kris Howell and 16-year-old artist Kaitlyn Elvidge. Best of all, both kids and adults have the chance to try some art of their own before leaving the grounds of NIC.

"The adult hands-on art space is really fun," says Flammia. "It's under a huge canopy and there's a variety of quick art projects, including painting on gourds or doing stuff with fabric. All it costs is whatever it would take to reimburse the supplies, which is usually just a few dollars. It's fun to see the adults having a little souvenir to take home, just like the kids."

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