A small shed in an alleyway near downtown Coeur d’Alene for two years has housed a support network for over 50 young artists in the community.
Daniel Siemens, a full-time North Idaho College student, hosted 13 artists’ works on Oct. 13 in what he calls a “dirty, little shed” that has been partially renovated to create a space where the community’s young artists can connect.
A Christmas market-themed show is planned for the second weekend in December in that shed, known as The Back Alley Art Gallery.
Siemens said he opened the space partially because he never had a place to show, discuss and sell his art. He wants to offer that to emerging artists.
“When you have the opportunity to support people who you can relate to because they’re your age and they are showing their art in front of you and in front of their friends, then do that,” Siemens, 22, said. “This is a place where people can get encouraged to support their local artist communities.”
He said his October showing attracted 150 gallery visitors throughout the night — the showing prior had approximately 250 trickle in and out — all while live music was played nearby from local musicians Jacob Maxwell and Jacoby Salazar.
Angus Meredith is a photographer and makes custom lamps out of odds and ends like gas cans. Three of his lamps were featured in the last gallery.
He said it offers a chance for young creatives to grow through their work.
“I think [young artists] are passionate because they’re trying to find something in it. They’re trying to find who they are through their art,” Meredith said. “I think younger artists don’t look at it as a business at all. It’s just they’re doing it for themselves or to get recognition.”
Amelia Puskash, another artist who paints vibrant galaxy themes, said she was encouraged to show her work in the space while traveling through the area with her husband, Evan.
Meredith said many emerging artists will have difficulty getting their pieces featured in a standard gallery, but Back Alley gives people a place to show their work without judgment.
Siemens said the mission of his little space is to get people to do something more to inspire change, however big or small it may be.
Another intention is to create a progressive, not destructive, dialogue on art, promoting it not only within youth communities but in different communities in the area, he said.
Siemens said he was concerned that local galleries wouldn’t support his efforts, but instead found that they were directing people to his showings through word of mouth.
He said they explained a valuable lesson to him that if a different group of people is involved in arts, they, in turn, support other artists in the community and build on the arts as a whole.
It’s not just young artists that show up and support the work, though, Siemens said. He was initially concerned visitors in older demographics would view the space as hostile.
“It seems kind of, ‘Oh, it’s those young ruffians hanging out in the alley, smoking, looking at art and talking like they know everything,’ but they enjoy it,” he said. “You get people down here who are parents, who are grandparents. They see a bunch of young people around some glowing lights and seeing some art and listening to some music and they love it.”
The art displayed is not only galaxy paintings and Meredith’s custom gas-can lamps (he uses other supplies, too). It covers a wide array of media: stickers, poetry, sculptures, handmade journals, t-shirts, photography, music and other formats.
All in all, Siemens said he hopes the space promotes one thing in particular.
“The biggest thing is support youth and their art. Support youth and their passions more than anything,” he said. “Art is just one form of it. Support them and what they enjoy.”
The Back Alley Art Gallery is located in the alley off Seventh Street between Coeur d’Alene and Lakeside avenues. For more info, visit: www.facebook.com/backalleyartgallery/ or instagram.com/backalleyartgallery