If you didn’t get a chance to meet Steve Gibbs during his life, chances are you’ve been a part of something he helped create. Gibbs opened The Art Spirit Gallery in Downtown Coeur d’Alene 20 years ago, and although being a respected gallery owner and sharing pieces of modern art with the community, it was what he did outside the walls of the gallery that really made an impact.
At his memorial this past December, an estimated 400 people came out to pay their respects. “When the head of the North Idaho College Art department asked all artists who were impacted by Gibbs to stand up, at least 100 people stood; it was really incredible,” said Blair Williams, new owner of The Art Spirit Gallery. The thriving art scene we enjoy today is in large part due to his determination of bringing artists together for a common good. He was vital in helping establish both the Coeur d’Alene Arts and Culture Alliance, a nonprofit group dedicated to showcasing our community’s wide-ranging artists, and the First Friday Artwalk, which has become a favorite for both locals and tourists alike every April through December. These programs have helped build a tight-knit network of painters, sculptors, musicians and craftsmen, all coming together to share their pieces with our community.
While Gibbs dedicated much of his life to furthering the arts in his community, his legacy lives on at the focal point of his career. “The model he created works wonderfully, and there’s no reason to drastically change it,” explained Williams. “We’ve had goals laid out and will continue to take the gallery and the art community forward.”
Williams had been working with Gibbs at The Art Spirit Gallery for four years prior to his death. She was initially brought on as a consultant to help build a team Gibbs could rely on as he eased his way into retirement. A team was put in place before his passing, and walking into the gallery today, it is evident this group wants to continue to do things just as Gibbs did for years.
If you haven’t been before, The Art Spirit Gallery is a modern art studio. Instead of just putting paintings up on the wall, each month the interior is stripped down and an entirely new collection is put up in a very unique way.
“We’ve asked people if they’ve come in before, and they’ll reply, ‘Yes, but I think it was something else before.’ When we explain to them what we do each month, they can’t believe they’re in the same place,” said Williams. The shows are always different and typically feature mostly regional artists, however, pieces from as far away as New Zealand will make their way into the display as well.
“Our goal is to share these wonderful works that we have and have you leave inspired.”
While some see art as a hobby or funded by grants and non-profits, one of Gibbs’ goals as well as Williams’ was to show that art is an equally important aspect of the business world. Thus, The Art Spirit Education Collaboratory was born. It functions as a partnership with the University of Idaho to teach art students about the business side of their future careers. It begins with light classes and programming at The Art Spirit Gallery and also includes instruction on maintaining collections, displaying pieces and how to present your works to galleries in order to get them on display. The program has been so greatly accepted that The University of Idaho is developing a two-year master’s program in Arts Administration, which is on track to launch in fall 2018. “This is all thanks to Gibbs’ commitment, and we are hoping to expand this into so much more,” said Williams.
According to Williams, colleges and universities across the country are beginning to add more pieces of art around their campuses. It’s believed that creative thinking is stirred by seeing images, art and sculptures that challenge your thinking and therefore creates more learning and ideas.
The Art Spirit Gallery will continue Gibbs’ commitment to bringing artists together from all backgrounds to further expand the local scene. As evidenced by attendance at Artwalk, Art on the Green and the Summer Concert series at Riverstone, the local arts and culture scene is continuing to gain momentum. All are invited to stop by the gallery located on Sherman Avenue, between Fourth and Fifth streets, downtown. Hours are Tuesday through Sunday 11am to 6pm in April, and come May the Gallery will be open seven days a week during the same hours. Even if you stopped by last month, you’re guaranteed to see something completely different the next time you visit; just as Gibbs would have wanted it.
“We know his standard, and we expect to meet that standard, to do things right and to do it in the most collaborative way possible,” said Williams. Though the art community is still feeling the loss of one of its great local contributors, Steve Gibbs’ memory lives on in the programs and artists he influenced.
The Art Spirit Gallery
415 Sherman Ave.
Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814