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Unofficially Summer 

ArtFest takes over Browne's Addition with more than 150 artists.

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The past few years have seen Browne’s Addition transform for the first weekend of June, thanks to the combination of both the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture’s annual ArtFest and the nearby Elkfest. This year, however, with Elkfest moving back a weekend, the honor of welcoming Spokane to summer falls directly in the lap of ArtFest, which again occupies Coeur d’Alene Park with more than 150 different artists booths.

Also, you’ll find children’s activities, food vendors, a beer garden and live music.

The juried art show — now in its 27th year — hands out cash and other prizes in a number of areas, ranging from overall Best in Show to photography and jewelry. It features a venerable who’s who of local, national and regional artists. Here’s a small sampling of folks to keep an eye out for.

Something or Other

In the ArtFest application process, artists are asked to specify a category for their work. Painting, metalwork, fiber, jewelry — it’s all rather straightforward. But who would specify “other?” That would be self-trained artist Dawn LaGrave, who parlayed a career in sciences, health insurance and even information technology into a fascination with kaleidoscopes. Her Seattle-based company, LaGrave Designs, takes ordinary digital images, slices them into geometric shapes, repeats them to form a mandala pattern and then prints them out in sections that overlap to create a low relief. The effect is something both familiar and otherworldly.

Re-Imagining Wood

With all the plastic in our lives, nothing quite resonates like natural materials — especially wood, a timeless media shaped by humans since time began. Whereas some people only see the utility of building materials or accessories, Marguerite Wagner sees a potential spirit awaiting the transformative powers of the artist. For more than 30 years, she’s been re-imagining scrap wood into wall hangings and other artworks that showcase a diverse forest of wood grain and texture. Often, the forms are curved along the edges, like the timeworn stones Wagner gathers from walks not far from her home in the Hood Canal area of Washington. Other times, the forms undulate like the tide, a reminder of the elemental appeal of one of man’s oldest art forms.

Childlike Wonder

It’s perfectly appropriate that artist Diane Culhane owns and manages a children’s school and has an extensive teaching background.

Her vibrant paintings capture the secret wonder of how children sometimes approach a canvas (or blank wall in the living room!), juxtaposing colors, shapes, figures and space so that the page reads like a story. Indeed, Culhane talks about “story-making and short vignettes from a world I know and experience.” This is “a world of my own creation where I get to pretend.” There is some seriously advanced painting technique at work in the Seattle artist’s paintings, however, which involves layer upon layer of thin acrylic paint called glazing. Some areas are scraped away, while others allow dark under-painting to show through in order to suggest an outline. Images seem to float while colors glow. Culhane’s invented world looks pretty good from the outside.

Fantasy Wear

Karen Snyder may have had J.R.R. Tolkien’s Galadriel in mind while developing her elfish-looking “lace.” Her Entiat River Glass & Jewelry, which she runs with husband Dale, an expert glassworker, even sounds a bit Middle Earth-y. To make lace out of metal, Snyder hand-knots and weaves fine silver, copper and gold wire. Sometimes she incorporates gemstones into her bracelets, necklaces, earrings and circlets, including rare “blue” agates from Ellensburg, near the couple’s central Washington home. With a background in geology and a nostalgic love for rock hunting she inherited from her grandfather, Snyder cuts the stones into unexpected shapes that integrate seamlessly into the lace. And, should you wish to be queen for a day (or if you’re getting married), Dale can craft glass beads uniquely for the bride and her royal court of bridesmaids.

Magical Surface Matter

Clay is an enticing medium. When wet, it can be formed into virtually any shape yet also cut and formed with razor precision. In liquid form, it fills molds for infinite duplicates or gets colored and brushed onto clay surfaces like paint. Spun on the wheel, it’s a deceptively difficult process, made to look easy by experts. But clay has another magical quality: It will behave like glass. Under intense heat, certain clays will fuse — just like glass. This is the secret of Rick Stafford’s nature- and Asian-inspired black dishware and unique porcelain flutes. Some of the pieces use a Japanese marbling technique called neriage that’s similar to millefiori in Italy (you see it often in glass beading and polymer clay). Other works use ultra-thin pieces of colored clay, like an applique that, when fired, seem to melt just slightly onto the background of the piece.

 

The Sounds of Artfest

Sitting on the lawn in Coeur d’Alene Park, huckleberry-flavored something in your belly, listening to the guys on stage with washboards or fiddles — it’s the quintessential ArtFest scene, and a sign that Spokane’s glorious summer has arrived. The three-day neighborly celebration of artisan works and good weather happens this weekend, and there’s a lot of the same types of folksy, rootsy music that we’re used to seeing on the Artfest stage.

Ditch out of work before 5:00 on Friday night to catch AN DOCHAS, an immensely popular local outfit known for their interpretation of Irish music. The band draws inspiration, though, from artists like Sigur Ros, Beck and Muse — they fuse fiddles, pipes, mandolins and guitars to create something truly emotional, plaintive and moving.

On Saturday, head to the park for a day’s worth of great performances from long-time Spokane band BLUE CANOE and jazz from the DON GOODWIN TRIO. Right around dinner time, beloved locals 6 FOOT SWING come out to do what they do best: get crowds dancing, singing along and toe-tapping to their swing and jazz standards.

If you can’t make it until Sunday, you’re still in for a lot of great music: jazz from the EASTERN JAZZ ENSEMBLE, folk variety from THE CELTIC NOTS and, last but not least, one of Spokane’s most popular performers — guitarist and bluesman SAMMY EUBANKS. (Leah Sottile)

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