By DEVIN WEEKS
COEUR d’ALENE — While on business in Boise, Coeur d’Alene Mayor Steve Widmyer often hears people talk about North Idaho’s tremendous art scene.
He said to an applauding crowd that people might think Boise is “all that,” but Coeur d’Alene’s arts scene is the gold standard not just in Idaho, but in all of the Northwest.
"As we all know, public art is an essential element of having a thriving and vibrant community,” he said. “We will continue to show Boise who is No. 1."
Widmyer thanked those who contribute to the radiance of North Idaho's arts community Wednesday evening during the Coeur d'Alene Arts Commission's 23rd annual Mayor's Awards in the Arts celebration at the Hagadone Event Center.
It was a full house as the who's who of the arts scene gathered to honor the 2018 award winners. Attendees in colorful dresses, argyle vests and other evening wear greeted each other with warm smiles and hugs as they socialized prior to the award ceremony.
"I think it’s really important that we as a community recognize the contributions not only of our good artists, but also of the people and the businesses that support the arts in our community,” said Coeur d'Alene Arts Commission member Ali Shute. "I love this because it feels like the Coeur d’Alene Oscars. At the Oscars everybody knows everybody. Here, it’s kind of a fun little mini-community."
Coeur d'Alene Charter Academy art student Jack Bird received the award for Student Excellence in the Arts. He gave a shout-out to his art teacher, Heather Ketchum, and other teachers who have influenced and inspired him.
"Without teachers at Coeur d'Alene Charter Academy, I'm not sure where I would be as an artist," he said. "Thank you, Miss Ketchum, for giving me the dedication and vigor to create creative works of art."
For the first time in the event's history, a tie was drawn between the recipients of the Arts in Education award, which went to Jessica Bryant and Iris Siegler.
"As a nature and wilderness artist, Jessica Bryant's work is both stunningly beautiful and truly representative of the natural beauty the Northwest has to offer," said arts commission chair Jennifer Drake. "Her pieces somehow manage to be both bold and soft, as if you're catching nature's perfect moment in the perfect light and you happen to be lucky enough to be there to see it."
She described Siegler as a "staple in the arts community" who has contributed a great amount in the 38 years she has been in the scene.
"Those who know her say that her love and tireless commitment to the kids of our community and ensuring their exposure to art is nothing less than amazing," Drake said.
"I'm a preschool teacher, and I think we've made history by giving an award to an early childhood teacher," Siegler said, which was answered with cheers and applause.
Brothers Mike and Allen Dodge exchanged a big hug as they and Allen's wife and collaborative partner Mary Dee were honored, Mike for Support of the Arts and Allen and Mary Dee for Excellence in the Arts. Allen and Mary Dee received the Support of the Arts award 20 years ago and received a standing ovation when their award was announced.
All of the honorees received unique, handmade awards created by local artist Zac Aschenbrener.
"It's really easy to walk around Coeur d'Alene and see that we are a community steeped in the arts and that we definitely appreciate the arts," Drake said. "Every year, the arts in Coeur d'Alene get bigger and better and deeper and spread out and more involved, so every year when we get to choose from the nominees of who wins these awards, it gets harder.
"It's so much fun, it's such a great crowd," she said of the awards event. "It's the friendliest audience you're ever going to meet because everybody here loves art, loves being out, it's an amazing venue. It's just one of my favorite events of the year."