A community's art events are good for culture and for business
Because art can bring "vibrancy and coolness" to a community, Ali Shute, executive director of the Coeur d'Alene Arts and Culture Alliance since August 2015, said that art can generate good for the community and the economy.
"Art means business," she said as she promotes to the business community how art has an impact on the greater Coeur d'Alene community.
Based on using the calculator of Americans for the Arts, it generates $1 million for the local business community, including through partnerships the alliance has with 25 nonprofits, she said.
"The little things fill me up and keep me going," she said, "things like seeing children flourish on Kids Draw Day, the pride of those who created the Art Walk Bags, or the response of the elders to the Music for the Wise programs."
Ali said the alliance seeks to promote and establish visual, performing, written and cultural arts and education for the arts in the Coeur d'Alene area. It also provides networking opportunities for those involved and seeking to be involved in the arts.
Most events the alliance offers are free, with support coming from membership, sponsorships and grants.
Ali listed programs of the Arts and Culture Alliance: Music for the Wise, ArtWalk, Music Walk, the Riverstone Concert series, Artist Studio Tour, Art from the Heart, Arts Buzz and Kids Draw Architecture.
She discussed how the events have an impact on the community.
• From January through April, Music for the Wise brings local musicians to retirement centers, nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Kootenai County.
"We pay the musicians to perform with funding from Rotary and the Post Falls Kiwanis and an anonymous donor," she said.
Ali said music is important for older people, touching them in ways nothing else can.
"Music is more than intellectual. It's physical and intuitive," she said. "For example, an elderly person who has serious dementia will suddenly begin dancing and singing to a song he or she remembers. Music triggers deep memories inside of us. It's powerful.
"We scheduled 20 concerts a year ago. This year, we hope to do two more," she said.
• The alliance is known for its family-friendly ArtWalk, which takes place from 5 to 8 p.m., on second Fridays, April through December. There are displays of local and nationally acclaimed artists in participating galleries, shops, restaurants and businesses.
• Music Walk is newer. It is at 5 p.m., on second Fridays from January through March. Local musicians and singers/songwriters perform in various venues. In 2017, Expedia picked up on it and began publicizing Music Walk. Ali, the alliance's sole staff person, and the 17-member board scrambled to build it up.
"Last year, we held Music Walk at 13 venues," she said. "This year, we hope for 15 or 16, from restaurants to galleries to coffee shops to retail stores."
• The Riverstone Concert series draws a crowd that is growing each year, with up to 500 attending some of the 2018 concerts. It is held from 6 to 8 p.m., Thursdays in July and August at Riverstone Park.
"We schedule various music genres," she said. The series has highlighted Coeur d'Alene Summer Theater show tunes, rhythm and blues, reggae and big band. The Coeur d'Alene Symphony has played. Mandy Fer and the Dave McGraw Band from the Puget Sound area have shared their music. They recorded an album off the grid, using solar and wind power.
• The Artist Studio Tour last year included 15 studios and featured 34 artists.
• During October, which is National Arts and Humanities Month, the alliance helps Coeur d'Alene celebrate Art from the Heart, which raises community awareness of local opportunities.
One such event, Art in the Making, brings in a live model, along with 12 or 13 artists using a variety of mediums. The public watches them work.
The Arts and Culture Alliance provides other educational opportunities.
• Arts Buzz is from 9 to 10 a.m., first Fridays in the Chamber of Commerce conference room. Arts organizations, musicians, artists, performers and others participate.
"It provides a place for people and organizations to share events and talents, to seek and give advice," said Ali.
• Through Kids Draw Architecture, young artists work with architects and landscape designers. They learn the cultural and historic significance of what they are drawing, she said.
In 2017, students created a 2018 calendar using drawings from the Fort Ground area of Coeur d'Alene. This year, they traveled to Cataldo Mission and used their drawings to create note cards.
"This past Kids Draw Day, I watched 36 children board shuttle buses at the Human Rights Education Institute to travel to the Cataldo Mission," Ali said. "Afterwards, parents said it made a difference to their children."
• Twelve young adults with physical and/or mental challenges learned life skills through a project put on by Idaho Parents Unlimited (IPUL) in conjunction with Idaho Vocational Rehabilitation. Every year, they create an ArtWalk carry-all canvas bag with two handles. She said it went so well that they plan to work together on 2019 bags.
Those participating do their own drawings. They then make block prints and print the bags. Artists sign their designs.
"ArtWalk is sponsored by STCU, which came for an April unveiling of the bags," she explained. "Some of the young people spoke, including one with a voice box. They were proud of their drawings.
"It reminded me of what I did when I was working for the Americorps/Vista program at St Vincent de Paul. I developed Art on the Edge, a program for at-risk youth, to help them problem-solve through art. It's still going on. It reminded me of what art does to people inside."
Ali said that art "frees our expectations and makes us more flexible in our thinking. It's a great problem-solving tool. It opens up possibilities."
At 5:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 16, Coeur d'Alene Arts and Culture Alliance has their yearly fundraiser, Mardi Gras Krewe d'Alene.
"It's about arts, culture and festivities," she said. "The Coeur d'Alene Plaza Shops are decorated to feel like the streets of New Orleans."
Activities include a cook-off by up to 10 area restaurants, street entertainment, a drag queen show and a raffle, including tickets for a trip for two to New Orleans.
"One board member grew up in New Orleans," she said. "She explained that Mardi Gras is not one wild day, but the culmination of the Carnival celebration that begins on Twelfth Night and lasts throughout the Christian season of Epiphany, ending when Lent begins. The season includes family events, such as picnics and more than 100 parades.
As executive director, Ali brings together her understanding of working with nonprofits and running a small business.
"Art has been part of my life since the beginning," she said.
She grew up in Virginia with a mother who was an artist and a father who was attending law school. Her mother instilled tidbits of wisdom like: "Good art won't match your sofa."
By that she meant that the point of art is to elicit a response, not just be décor for a house.
"The response it elicits may not be the response that is desired, but getting a response means success," Ali said.
When she was 19, she moved to Coeur d'Alene with $15 in her pocket. She came because a friend lived here.
Ali attended North Idaho College and received a commercial art degree in 1996. She has been a graphic designer for 25 years.
For information, call 208-292-1629 or email email@example.com.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, January, 2019