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Tidal wave of art 

by Sheri Boggs

In the crush to find the perfect gift, it's easy to get stuck in "inside-the-box" thinking. Specifically, "inside-the-box" in terms of big boxy malls, big-box retailers and pre-packaged gift packs. Blehhhh! This year, why not go with something utterly unique, something made by hand, something that helps benefit a fine local institution? Yep, we're talking about art, specifically the kind of art you can only procure at this year's Yuletide.

A holiday tradition of 22 years, Yuletide is a three-day indoor festival of fine arts and impeccable craftsmanship. In addition to showcasing some of the region's best artisans, the art sale also benefits programs at the Spokane Art School, where the event takes place. As in years past, Yuletide kicks off on Thursday night with a preview party, featuring fine wines, hors d'oeuvres, desserts, live music and, of course, first dibs on the art. And this year, there will be more art to peruse than ever before.

"We're actually moving furniture out of the building to make more room for the artists," says Sue Ellen Heflin, director of the Spokane Art School. "It's a big experiment; we hope it works!"

Heflin says that this year's Yuletide includes 12 more artists than usual, bringing the grand total to more than 60. Among the many names on this year's roster are Liz Bishop (ceramics), Jan Molder (handbound books and paper boxes), Kris Howell (handcrafted jewelry with semi-precious stones), Michaelangelo Molea (functional and decorative metalwork) and Shirley Erlandsen (watercolor paintings). In addition to ceramics, jewelry, photography, paintings and glass, Yuletide also offers handmade chenille clothing, felted hats, papier mache and even wooden bookmarks.

"Julie Flint does these wonderful wooden bookmarks," says Heflin. "Who knew a bookmark could be a piece of art? But these are really fabulous, intricate little pieces."

Yuletide has changed a little this year -- there's no preview auction and no hands-on activities for the kids -- but there is a great new tradition the staff at the art school hopes will take hold.

"We have invited our strongest supporting artists, people who are big supporters of the Spokane Art School but don't necessarily want a booth this year, to each submit a single piece," she explains. "We're calling it 'Lagniappe,' which is a French Cajun term for that little extra bit. There are about 20 artists participating in Lagniappe and we're keeping their identity secret. You'll just have to come to Yuletide to see who they are."

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