Picturesque on Priest

by CARRIE SCOZZARO & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & t may seem odd coming from an arts writer, but art doesn't top the pyramid when it comes to the human hierarchy of needs. Food, fuel and housing outrank Renoir on the priority list, especially during times when the economy is shaky. That's one reason why the opening of the new Entree Gallery in North Idaho's lake country is most definitely news.

We've all heard the statistics about the number of new businesses that fail, including those that expand only to find they cannot sustain the effort. That's the second reason the opening of Entree Gallery is news: It's the second location for owners Pam and Jim Martin, whose original Reeder Bay location in Nordman at Priest Lake has enjoyed 30 years -- and three generations -- of showcasing regional artwork.

Entree (with pronunciation and emphasis on "tree," in honor of the forested environs) will open its Coolin Bay location on Friday, May 23, beginning at 6 pm. That's perfectly timed for the summertime reawakening of lakefront towns with the arrival of out-of-towners as well as the longtime residents who summer along this southeastern tip of beautiful Priest Lake.

Between the two locations, Entree Gallery represents more than 120 Northwest artists. That's the third reason this is news: Although not as high-profile as art venues like Lorinda Knight Gallery, the Art Spirit or the MAC, galleries like Entree provide an important forum for regional artists, both emerging and established.

Mary Maxam is one such artist. While teaching art for Lakeland High School for more than 25 years -- an occupation from which she recently retired -- Maxam established herself as a prominent painter specializing in florals, flyfishing and landscapes. Also represented by Coeur d'Alene's Angel Gallery, Maxam credits the hands-on, familial approach by Entree's owners as the reason for its success.

"Each spring, I look forward to the new season at Entree," said Maxam. "Pam [Martin], Kathleen [the Martins' daughter-in-law], and all the folks there are welcoming and great to work with, whether you are the artist or the art buyer."

Closed during the winter, both galleries house an eclectic mix of work ranging from familiar to fresh-faced. (Renovations at the new location were minimal, although a front-loader was required to remove tons of snow.) The list includes Coeur d'Alene-based Terry Lee, best known for his massive animal paintings and bronze sculptures, and David Govedare, whose Riverfront Park runners are synonymous with downtown Spokane. Govedare will exhibit at Coolin Bay (on Aug. 3), while Lee is slated for Reeder Bay.

Other artists include veteran Harold Balazs, as well as George Flett (who will exhibit at Reeder Bay on July 6). Sandpoint readers would recognize the name Dann Hall, whose Ross Hall collection of vintage black and white photography captures the olden days, while wildlife enthusiasts should know the name of Joe Kronenberg, who is making a name for himself with painstakingly realistic pastel renderings of wolves, cougars and the like.

Like the original Reeder Bay location, the Coolin Bay branch is in an historic building, smaller than its sister site but cozy at 900 square feet. It's a place that allows you to envision how the artwork might look in your home.

That homey feeling is one the owners have cultivated. Pam Martin likens the galleries' customers to family. "It has been an honor to have served three generations of customers, who have become long-term friends," she says. "Their loyalty to the gallery is what keeps it going." The Martin family, in fact, is in its third generation of gallery ownership. In addition to daughter-in-law Kathleen, granddaughter Samantha has joined ranks.

And that's the final reason this gallery opening is news: Entree Gallery is a family business that exemplifies the idea that doing what you love and loving what you do can be one and the same.

Entree Gallery is located at 379 Bayview Road in Coolin, Idaho. Gallery hours: daily from 10 am-6 pm. Visit or call (208) 443-2002.

American Original: The Life and Work of John James Audubon @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 19
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