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Art for all

by Nick Rotunno
| December 2, 2010 8:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - He had been working since 3 a.m., but Steve Gibbs was fully charged on Tuesday.

Owner of The Art Spirit gallery on Sherman Avenue, Gibbs had sculptures to photograph, paintings to hang and an online database to update. He had a basement to sort through, a loft to prepare and organize.

And he didn't have much time.

"We want to provide amuseum-quality experience," Gibbs said. "We work real hard to provide a really good venue for our artists. We don't specialize in the typical."

This Friday at 5, regional artists will gather for opening night of the 12th annual Small Artworks Invitational, The Art Spirit's largest event of the year. Sponsored by Duane and Lola Hagadone, the invitational will run from Dec. 3-31 and showcase more than 250 works of art. Most of the items will be smaller than 12 inches.

Artwork is still arriving at the gallery, and Gibbs is toughing out a busy week.

"Our focus is to be able to show the really hard-working, good artists for this region," he said. "They live around here, they're friendly, and they're here at the openings."

Thirty-one artists will be featured at the event, including Coeur d'Alene residents Allen Dodge, Mary Dee Dodge and Barbara Pleason Mueller. Harrison's George Carlson will likely make an appearance, as well as Tyree Kearns of Rathdrum and Kyle Paliotto of Hayden.

Stephen Schultz, Romey Stuckart and Rita Hutchens will represent Sandpoint.

"It's an exciting show for the community, and there's really a lot of quality work right in front of you," said Michael Horswill of Hayden, an art instructor at North Idaho College. "Just a real opportunity to see a great range of work."

Four of Horswill's steel encaustic paintings - a style that combines metal frames and pigmented beeswax - will be on display during the invitational.

"The 12-inch size limitation is kind of a challenge for artists," Horswill said of the December event. "What you really see is how all the artists interpret that size restriction in their media of choice."

Visitors will see sculptures, drawings and pottery. Intricate jewelry, unique paintings and carvings will grace the walls.

A number of the featured artists are well-known throughout the Inland Northwest.

"Steve has a knack for finding, first, people that are great artists," said gallery assistant Victoria Dickinson. "And then he hangs an incredible show. People come in and their jaws drop. He has a very good eye for new and different kinds of work."

Goateed and gregarious, Gibbs opened The Art Spirit almost 14 years ago. He became a leader in the Coeur d'Alene art community and organized the first downtown ArtWalks. In 2003 he moved the gallery to 415 Sherman, where it now hosts about 11 art shows per year, including the annual Small Artworks Invitational.

"We try to get sponsors for our shows," Gibbs said, explaining that sponsorship dollars help promote and advertise the events. "Duane and Lola are doing it more to support the arts. We're just delighted that they're sponsoring (this event)."

With smaller, less expensive items for sale, the upcoming invitational is perfect for holiday shoppers, Gibbs said.

"Contrary to popular belief, it's not just wealthy people who can afford art, or buy art," Dickinson said. "It's everybody."

Art Spirit will host an opening reception and ArtWalk on Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. Throughout the invitational, the gallery will be open every day except Christmas from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Friday evenings until 9.

Dickinson predicted a large turnout on opening night.

"I think no matter what the weather is doing, the ArtWalk will be a big success downtown. People in Coeur d'Alene are hardy," she said. "I would think anywhere between 400 and 600 people will come."

Information: www.TheArtSpiritGallery.com or 765-6006

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