Sandpoint is an Art Town

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The 1970s brought hippies and environmentalism as well as arts and more theater to the Sandpoint area. This spelled the downfall of the lumber industry. Jim Brown, of the Pack River Lumber Company, wisely diversified his business and, as one of the original founders of Schweitzer Mountain, bought out the rest of the shareholders to make Schweitzer a privately owned venture. To this very day one can still see the occasional psychedelic bus or love bug traversing county roads. Now the hippies are augmented by the winter ski bum, and the warm weather off-road cyclists.

Around this time the Hope Peninsula became an art colony. Edward and Nancy Reddin Kienholz moved there from Los Angeles in 1973. The Peninsula also had a cluster of buildings owned by the Max Factor family, and the Kienholz's drew upon the beauty of the area as inspiration. A close friend and principal benefactor to Kienholz was Klaus Groenke, also a former resident of the Hope Peninsula. Groenke is one of the richest German real estate developers and is the managing director and part owner of Trigon Holding GmbH, a Berlin based international real estate company. He is also reported to be a leading share holder in Coca Cola Company, and a regional board member of the Deutsche Bank Berlin/Brandenberg. It is reported that the reason that the Hope Peninsula has a paved road it that he had it done so his guests would not have to drive on a dirt road out to his estate. Half his estate was sold in 2005, however, formerly Mr. Groenke's land boasted a series of triangulated satellite dishes, extensive antennae arrays, and curious metal "art." These giant sculptures dotted his property, many of which were originally purchased for millions of dollars, and some could be seen by Lake Pend Oreille boaters. A few were the "Tableaux" that Kienholz was famous for. One of the most famous features is the Plexiglas-encased full section of the Berlin Wall, graffiti and all, easily seen right in front of the front gate. The Hope Peninsula is also the home of the Ruen property: a 194 acre jewel that the family cannot agree on what to do with. It also has Sam Owen Park and is a nature preserve, with hundreds of friendly, tame deer that tourists love to interact with, and many other protected animals such as dozens and dozens of wild turkeys.

Local art gallery owner, Jim Quinn of the Timberstand writes in his blog: "Throughout the years art colonies have developed by region because they give skilled but lessor known artists the opportunity to work side by side with more accomplished painters. One of the earliest and better known colonies is The New Hope Colony. They were associated with the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the concept of painting en plein air. Many members of this group, Daniel Garber, Fern Coppage, Walter Emerson and many others are very collectible in today's market especially since they followed in the footsteps of artist Edward Willis Redfield who influenced an entire generation. Some other well known colonies are - Woodstock, New York, The Hoosiers, Colonies of the South, Southern Women Artists, etc...

In today's world art colonies continue to develop in places like Jackson Hole, WY, Sun Valley, Idaho, Sandpoint, Idaho and many other places known for their natural beauty."

Today with the Artist Studio Tour, many galleries, and hundreds of artists, the county has become a true artist's haven.

The Pend Oreille Arts Council was formed in 1978 and with it, summer theater was born. The Panida Theater closed its doors until it was saved by a community fund-raiser and reopened in 1985. A bridge was constructed across Sand Creek and housed the public market. It is now home to Coldwater Creek's flagship store. The 1980s brought more local flair to the area as the Farmer's Market was founded and the Festival at Sandpoint began welcoming top name musicians to the area at its wonderful setting on the shores of the Pend Oreille River.

Supporting the arts is an effort we feel is well worth the time and moneys invested to help our community flower into the art destination we believe our areas deserves. It shows off our region as a true artist colony, brings in tourist dollars, and with the internet, allows our artists to make a living in an area that for decades suffered from low wages and high unemployment. Art lifts the soul to a higher level, creates critical thinking, and makes us better citizens.

Over the last years we have covered some controversial subjects on our radio show: North Idaho Arts and Adventure. We have discussed the need for art in our schools, we have discussed what is and is not considered art, which was a subjective proposition at best. Now we are exploring how Sandpoint and Bonner County can move forward and pave the way for the future which could lead our area to become a major tourist art destination. If we think about a couple of art communities, it becomes clear how supporting the arts on a local level can lead to community-wide prosperity. Take for instance Carmel and Monterey, California. These were sleepy little fishing villages with nice views and smelly piers. To get an idea of what it was like one only has to read Steinbeck's Cannery Row. That tome was published in 1945. Have things changed there? Not too much in the way of industry or tourism sixty or so years ago. How about Sausalito? While San Francisco a few miles south boomed, Sausalito was again a slow-moving hamlet that had beautiful scenery. Last time I went to the Sausalito Art Festival it cost $20 to enter. There was a time when it was free.

What would the city of Sandpoint do with $1,000,000 if we had 50,000 visitors to an art festival that had a $20 ticket price? One of our favorites is the Winter Park Art Festival. Been going on for 45 years, and attracts over 350,000 each year. Could we feasibly attract 20,000 or 30,000 visitors over a two or three day period? These other small towns attract many times that. These areas became artists' havens, and the artists showed the world the wonder of their adopted homes. The areas became famous, their economies boomed, and while they did not grow stupendously, they prospered greatly. We are very much like these towns in the early years of their art movements. Artists here are fantastically great and we are at a crossroads. We can either get behind this idea and create another great art enclave, or not. I don't like to think what North Idaho would be like without our natural beauty and majesty. What would we be like without art?  

Upcoming Art Events

December: Coeur d'Alene - Art Walk The Coeur d'Alene Arts and Culture Alliance has organized a monthly Art Walk, that takes place from 5-8 pm the 2nd Friday monthly, April through December. Enjoy an evening of exceptional art, fine dining and friends in downtown 208-664-3194

January 17-18: Dover Bay, IDaho - Midwinter Art Fest 11am -5pm daily: With art from dozens of North Idaho  Artists, this is our area's biggest winter art event. Featured at one of North Idaho's coolest waterfront communities, the Midwinter Art Fest is the biggest weekend deal during the Sandpoint Winter Carnival. Events, fun for the whole family, meet the aritsts, enjoy free beverages, refreshments, and treats, and see one of North Idaho's most beautiful resort communities. To learn more, visit or call Gary 208-610-1384 or send an e-mail to

January 15-18: Sandpoint Winter Carnival ArtTrek  - 5-8 pm, at locations around downtown Sandpoint Wander blissfully amid downtown's wine bars, galleries and shops in this self-guided art trek, showcasing the work of many local and regional artists. Special showings, hors d'oeuvres, live music and more at many locations. Self-guided map will be available at the Chamber and Downtown Sandpoint Business Association offices and many shops. See Festival at Sandpoint poster artist Janene Grende at the Coldwater Creek Wine Bar with live demos. Then, head up to the mountain Jan. 19-21 where Schweitzer puts on fireworks, live music, a torchlight parade and bonfires, and on Saturday night stop at the Gallery for a special event. See and 208-263-0887

February 14: Coeur d'Alene - mARTi-Gras Kids Carnival - Artists in the Making The Coeur d'Alene Arts & Culture Alliance has teamed up with Art on the Edge to bring you this fun-filled day of art and imagination. The Resort Plaza Shops will transform into an art workshop carnival offering Ten ongoing workshops. These workshops will be presented by Artists volunteering their time to mentor participating children. On the stage in the center court performing art workshops will take place intermixed with children's art performances. 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., $5.00 per child.

February 21: Coeur d'Alene - The Coeur d'Alene Resort Mardi Gras Jazz Festival The ideal escape from those inevitable winter blues is a weekend visit to The Coeur d'Alene Resort for the annual Mardi Gras Jazz Festival! The Coeur d'Alene Resort will be filled with live music. This fun filled weekend also includes the Mardi Gras Cajun Cookoff. Please call The Coeur d'Alene Resort at 800-688-5253, or

Gary Lirette, REALTOR® Tomlinson Sandpoint Sotheby's International Realty


Gary is the host of the North Idaho Business radio show, and specializes in waterfront and view properties in Sandpoint, Idaho.

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