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FAST FIVE: Art is in the fabric of Ali Shute's being

by DEVIN WEEKS
Staff Writer | August 29, 2020 12:00 AM

Meet Ali Shute. Ali has lived in the Coeur d’Alene area since 1979, when she moved here from Virginia seeking a happy lifestyle. A bit of a free spirit, she has lived on five acres in the woods with no electricity or plumbing, done a little acting with the Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre, sung in a jazz band, designed and built funky outfits for the annual Kootenai Environmental Alliance Junk 2 Funk and volunteered for numerous organizations. In 1996, she graduated from North Idaho College with a degree in commercial art. Ali gets the most joy from her family, her friends and her garden. Growing things is an addiction, and she takes great pride in the sanctuary she and her husband have created in their back yard in Post Falls.

Generation: I was born in 1959, so I think that makes me a Baby Boomer, although I don’t really relate to that too much.

Career and community involvement: I have been involved in the arts community for most of my 40-plus years in North Idaho. I started the Art on the Edge program, an art program for at-risk youth, in the mid '90s. After receiving my degree from NIC, I started a freelance graphic design studio that I have had for more than 25 years. I was also the graphic designer at NIC for eight years. But when the opportunity to promote the arts came along, it proved irresistible. This year marks my fifth anniversary as the executive director of the Arts and Culture Alliance. I have enjoyed making so many friends in this position, particularly the amazing people on our board of directors. I believe much of my success comes from my ability to cultivate relationships and make friends.

Parental status: My husband, Kevin, is a hard-working, supportive man and is my rock. We have three amazing grown children. Byron lives in Coeur d’Alene and plans on marrying his sweetheart, Chloe, this year. Conor lives in Carbondale, Colo. with his girlfriend, Lyn. They are both artists and free spirits. Maegan lives in Revelstoke, Canada with her Canadian husband, Dylan. Revelstoke is a gorgeous place, and I can’t wait until Canada reopens the border so I can go visit again. I am so proud of each of them, and the partners they have chosen.

  1. How are things going with the Arts and Culture Alliance?

It is an understatement that this year has been tough. I feel like everything is three times as much work. But I also feel like our presence in this community is vital right now. We are all feeling our way, sometimes aimlessly, and the arts lift our spirits and help us cope. I feel like the programs we bring are really important, and we have been trying to be creative in how we can still implement them safely.

  1. What should people know about the Artist Studio Tour happening this weekend?

That we are taking our artists’ health and safety, as well as the communities’, seriously. We will be implementing proper social distancing, and requiring masks. We had enough artists who really wanted to make this happen this year. It is such a fun and educational experience, and we are welcoming several new artists on the tour this year. Connecting with the artists, learning what inspires them and watching them in action is what this is all about.

  1. Why might right now be a good time to explore creative outlets, and what does art do for the soul?

The arts need support right now. Many artists are doing better than they thought, but many more are struggling. It is important to note how valuable the arts are to our local economy. It is in our best interest, and a great investment, to support the arts. Creating art and being around art relieves stress, encourages curiosity, teaches us to be more passionate and helps us stay focused.

  1. What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

I took a weaving class over a year ago, and have enjoyed it so much, I bought a loom. It is such a relaxing art form, at least once the loom is warped and ready to go. I have a spinning wheel, but I’m not very good at it. My goal is to one day shear a sheep, prepare the wool, spin it, weave it and wear whatever I make. I want to explore fiber arts more, learn how to dye and some more complex weaving techniques.

  1. Who is one of your biggest artistic influences and why?

My mother. I grew up in Virginia with an artist mom who taught me that I could do and be anything I wanted. From the moment I was old enough, my mother introduced me to the world of art, creativity and the preservation of our environment. We lived just outside of Washington, D.C., and I feel like I had the Smithsonians as my playground. We went to plays, made things and watched people make things. Experiencing the world through my mother is a treasure. And the opportunities to discover and learn in the Washington, D.C. area are endless. She is still doing amazing art. She currently lives just outside of Philadelphia, and regularly exhibits her work (marykane.com).