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An invitation for inspiration

by DEVIN WEEKS
Staff Writer | August 21, 2020 1:00 AM

Eighth annual Artist Studio Tour is Aug. 29, 30

For Shelly Matthews, the Coeur d'Alene Arts and Culture Alliance's Artist Studio Tour has been a game-changer.

“The studio tour was a critical point in my life,” she said Wednesday, standing in her quiet, colorful teaching studio, Art on the Roof, at 8052 W. Main St. in Rathdrum.

Matthews said when she visited oil and bronze artist Terry Lee's studio during a previous tour, it made a world of difference for her.

"It connected me with some of the local artists," she said. "I had been so involved in my career, I hadn't had a chance to really get connected with them."

After retiring last spring from 23 years as the founder and principal of LAM Christian Academy — a big job that allowed little time for hobbies and pastimes — Matthews, who has a degree in art education, was finally able to return to focusing on what she truly loves: creating and teaching art.

“I’m just so grateful to be back at this now,” she said.

Matthews is one of the featured artists on the eighth annual Artist Studio Tour, which takes place next weekend in Coeur d'Alene, Hayden and Rathdrum.

Fond of watercolors, acrylics and bronzes, Matthews is thrilled to share her passion for art with guests who drop by.

“It’s a dream come true. I’ve waited a long time to do this,” she said. “To be a part of the studio tour makes me feel like a legitimate artist. And these are really good artists that are on the tour."

During the tour, nearly 20 local artists in eight locations will open their private studios to the public, allowing community members to peek in on their creative processes and get to know the minds behind the masterpieces.

This will be Matthews’ first time featured on the tour, as well as Coeur d'Alene multi-media artist Leah Cohen.

Cohen, 25, hails from Detroit, where she gained experience working in the gallery scene. Her works are evocative of emotions that lead viewers to contemplate mental health and how they and others experience the world.

Housed in a studio in the Rockford Building at 504 E. Lakeside Ave. in downtown Coeur d'Alene, Cohen is all about connection, a theme that weaves throughout her works.

"I love talking with people about my art,” she said. "To me, that is really what art is about. It’s a two-second distraction, a five-second distraction from your everyday anxieties and thoughts and things that are happening."

One piece, "Phases of Faces," she crafted using paper, marker, paint and ink.

“It’s about waking up every morning and you decide what face or emotions you’re going to put on that day,” she said.

It's filled with imperfections, which Cohen appreciates, in art and in real life.

"When a piece is completely perfect, I personally look for the imperfections," she said. "A piece like this, it’s all imperfect in my eyes, so you can look all over the piece. My eyes are always looking for something new."

This year's tour is free and open to all. Guests will have opportunities to view and purchase art directly from the artists. Face masks will be required.

"The Studio Tour is a great opportunity to experience the creative process through the eyes and hearts of the artists in their own space," said Ali Shute, executive director of the Arts and Culture Alliance. "The artists love input about their work. And those interested in purchasing art will have a greater connection to their piece after the interaction with the artist."

The tour will go from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 29 and 30.

Visit www.artsandculturecda.org/artists-studio-tour to view the map.

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Shelly Matthews demonstrates an acrylic pour Wednesday in her Rathdrum studio, Art on the Roof. Matthews is one of nearly 20 area artists who will open their studios to the public during the Artist Studio Tour next weekend.

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Coeur d'Alene artist Leah Cohen discusses the different themes and media she uses to create her unique pieces during a visit to her Rockford Building studio on Wednesday. She is one of nearly 20 artists who will be featured on the Artist Studio Tour next weekend. (DEVIN WEEKS/Press)

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Coeur d’Alene artist Leah Cohen explains her multi-media piece “Phases of Faces” on Wednesday while preparing her studio for the Artist Studio Tour, coming up Aug. 29 and 30. This will be Cohen’s first year on the tour.