A Story of Faith and Joy
By Jillian Chandler | Photo by Adair Media Group
Shery Meekings has lived many places, from Virginia to Colorado to The Virgin Islands. After discovering Sandpoint and the ample outdoor opportunities and beauty of the town, she and her husband Scott made the move. They quickly realized how friendly and caring the people are, and that this would be the perfect place to raise a family. She has owned Carousel Emporium since 2017 and serves as president for the Downtown Sandpoint Business Association. She loves being a wife and a mom, and loves the work, family, and customers that God has placed in her life. She lives on a mini farm, raises alpacas, and likes to “buy the shoes and eat the cake!” Shery skis, loves boating, and will hike to find mountain goats any day of the week. She is also committed to providing creative opportunities for children in the community through her inspiring creation—Creations. She continues to be a blessing to our community and advocate for the arts and creativity in Sandpoint.
Q. When did Creations first open? And what was the inspiration behind it?
A. Creations was a vision I had after meeting John Gillham (previous owner of The Cedar Street Bridge) at Schweitzer’s artist gallery in 2008. He invited me to help him create new life and excitement in The Cedar Street Bridge (CBS) after Cold Water Creek moved their corporate offices from the CSB to Ponderay. I was definitely drawn to The Cedar Street Bridge. My love for the building came from my background in architectural engineering. My daughter was 2 years old at the time, and I attended MOPS (mothers of preschoolers) at First Christian Church (North Summit). It’s there I realized that Sandpoint didn’t have any indoor, free public play areas for children.
John gave me permission to create an art gallery in the upstairs of The Cedar Street Bridge, and I started offering art and craft classes after receiving requests from moms with special needs adults and moms with toddlers. The classes were an instant hit. I found the inspiration to continue these classes when I heard the sounds of laughter from children enjoying each other’s company and people from all walks of life engaging in conversations. Not only was I creating art, but I was creating joy! And the bonus that people were once again enjoying the beautiful, but still mostly vacant, Cedar Street Bridge. I was hooked! Then the art gallery was leased to a boutique (Carousel Emporium), and I moved the art area that I had created to the lower level. The art space transitioned to a by-donation, self-serve, community art and crafts studio called Creations in 2011.
Q. How has Creations evolved over the years? Are there any people you would like to mention who have helped it grow to what it has become today?
A. Capt. Dan Mimmack, previous owner of Northwest Handmade Furniture, saw my drawing of a children's interactive play area featuring a treehouse and play boat. He called me one afternoon and told me he was driving in from Seattle and delivering me a wooden sailboat for the children’s play area. I was shocked! I got to work and raised $700 ($10 each from 70 donors) to cover his gas and pay for the boat. (The donors who helped us that day are listed along the rim of the boat). Capt. Dan also made a phone call to Sandpoint Furniture and asked them to donate blue carpet to resemble water, so our new play boat would be afloat. They happily filled that need, and our little sailboat docked in its new home at the CSB in September 2012.
Creations’ art studio moved to the back of CBS to accompany the play boat. Then a million little miracles started happening. One by one. The parents that were using Creations donated a train table, a picnic table, and toys. Then a local electrician added USB ports and plugs for busy working parents. Capt. Dan added walls and countertops. Another parent added an arch, a set of decorative paddles, and a latching door (so toddlers couldn’t wander off).
Local grant writing warrior Kate Mansur helped Creations become a nonprofit 501c3 and apply for grants to support art supplies, art classes and discovery play. Kate has been writing grants for Creations for 12 years now. Experience Works sent seven trainees over four years to assist our program (a state and federally funded program that helps older adults learn new work skills). Next came AmeriCorps, which has placed a 4-H art instructor at Creations each year since 2020.
Guardian angel Anna Protsman (Creations’ art director) jumped in to assist Creations community art studio in 2011. She still teaches today, offering an amazing Wednesday class “For the Love of Art” and works in Sandpoint Toys. In 2012, Creations birthed a nonprofit children’s clothing and toy store to help support Creations’ play and art area. Our beloved friend Liz Murphy volunteered for years and helped shape the success of Sandpoint Toys and our Creations lending library. The addition of the long-awaited treehouse arrived in 2020.
In 2015, Creations merged with Art Alliance Inc. (DBA Creations), and we put in a newly renovated art area. As a 501c3 nonprofit, Creations is led by a hardworking volunteer board: myself, Kelsey Boekenoogen, Dyan Silsby, Melanie Kite, Chloe Jenkins, Ivan Corliss, Paige Gissel and Payton Johnsone.
CAL, Angels Over Sandpoint, the Meekings family, Rebecca Apple, Jeff and Cindy Bond, and Jim Gissey are just a handful of Creations’ supporters. Local support is key. Just a $1 per person donation every visit ensures the sustainability of our future. Creations has a reduced rent rate of $1,200 per month for the next 25 years, and pays an average of $1,800 a month to buy art supplies, insurance, and yearly maintenance expenses. Creations runs on donations, grants and fundraising!
Q. What are some of the creative experiences offered at Creations?
A. Creations community art studio offers a Montessori atmosphere where children can experiment with creative and classic art mediums. It also offers art classes that introduce youth through adults to many art mediums and new art skills in a lively environment. STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) are all present in this weatherproof space that looks out over our wonderful Sand Creek! Creations serves over 40,000 visits per year and is continuously experiencing miracles of joy and connecting our community through art and discovery play. New friendships for adults and children bloom every day!
Q. Why do you believe art, and the opportunity to create, are essential to the human experience?
A. I worked as an art teacher for years at Sandpoint Christian School, Selle Valley Carden, and Panhandle Special Needs. I learned there how valuable art is to every human being. It teaches discipline, refinement, perseverance, creativity. It works your problem-solving skills and fills your soul with creativity. My heart breaks that art and music have become secondary in our children’s education. It was a gift us Baby Boomer and Gen X students were given that we didn’t even know we were receiving.
Q. What is the “Show Your Love for Creations” fundraiser that launched November 1?
A. Creations has launched a $25,000 “Show Your Love for Creations Campaign” to help raise money to renovate our well-loved and well-used art studio and to pay our art and play area assistant. This position creates weekly art projects, teaches Preschool Story & Craft and Ladies’ Night, holiday craft projects, and daily cleaning of Creations. She is priceless! Help us make more art and smiles, many little miracles and lots of joy! Please show your love this holiday season by donating $10, $50, $500, $5,000. We’ve had a great 10 years at Creations. Let’s make the next 10 even better!