North Idaho artists, educators and performers recognized by CdA, Idaho state arts awards

click to enlarge Art Spirit Gallery owner Blair Williams. - YOUNG KWAK
Young Kwak
Art Spirit Gallery owner Blair Williams.

Twenty-five years ago, the Coeur d’Alene mayor’s office recognized the first in a long line of people whose contributions to the region’s visual and performing arts were significant. Initially, the categories were excellence in the arts, support of the arts, and arts in education. Past recipients include artist Harold Balazs (one of the few Washington honorees), actors Ellen Travolta and Jack Bannon, and Opera Plus! (which evolved into Inland Northwest Opera).

In 2016, recognition for student excellence in the arts was added, as well as the occasional exceptional award, such as the life achievement award to the Art Spirit Gallery’s founder, Steve Gibbs.

This year, although the live event has been sidelined because of safety concerns, the Art Spirit Gallery is once again being recognized. The gallery’s current owner, Blair Williams will be honored with the 25th annual Mayor’s Awards in the Arts for her support of the arts.


Additional honorees include Jan Pellant, the former conductor of the Coeur d’Alene Symphony (excellence in the arts); Hands to Art owner Kim Washko (arts in education); and Coeur d’Alene High School senior, Natasha Adams (student excellence). View the livestream on Facebook or YouTube, or Spectrum cable channel 1301 on November 4 at 6 pm.

Statewide arts awards go back even farther. Since 1970, Idaho’s governor has recognized excellence in the visual and performing arts every two years in a ceremony created by the Idaho Commission on the Arts. Categories vary from year to year, with the occasional lifetime award, for example, which this year goes to Boise’s Kay Hardy, whose arts involvement is widespread and extensive: the Idaho Commission on the Arts, Boise Baroque Chamber Orchestra, Opera Idaho, as well as the Ernest and Marie Hemingway House, Idaho Botanical Garden and the Boise Art Museum.

Last year’s Governor’s awards event was cancelled so this year, the event is being held November 9 Boise with limited attendance and livestreamed at 12:30 PST, via the Arts Idaho YouTube channel.

Fourteen honorees across seven categories will be recognized, including exemplary artists working in folk and traditional arts, arts educators and arts administrators.


Arts educator award winner Michele Chmielewski is a Post Falls High School art teacher and past president of the Idaho Art Education Association (which recognized Chmielewski’s fellow PFHS art teacher, Amber Poelstra in October as the 2021 Idaho art educator of the year). Moscow-area music teacher Kathy Stefani, who also serves as president of Idaho’s Music Educators Association was also recognized for her work in support of arts education. Roger Rowley, formerly the director of University of Idaho’s Prichard Gallery who now leads Moscow Contemporary, received an award for excellence in arts administration.

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