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Celebrating Local Arts & Culture

Sandpoint’s ArtWalk returns on June 18 By Taylor Shillam

Courtesy of Pend Orielle Arts Council

The Pacific Northwest is a beautiful home to creators and culture, with Sandpoint being North Idaho’s haven for originality and artists of all kinds. Its natural, resort town beauty extends from Sandpoint’s outdoor landscapes and charming downtown streets to the artistic culture that thrives within them.

Sandpoint is home to events and establishments that celebrate art in its diverse forms, from galleries stocked with paintings to cafés hosting poetry readings, to theaters celebrating the performing arts. Next month, the Festival at Sandpoint, a widely renowned and universally popular annual concert series known for celebrating eclectic music and community, is set to make a memorable return.

Another return this summer marks a celebration the town eagerly welcomes back in 2021: ArtWalk.

Each summer, local artisans, business owners and art galleries throughout downtown Sandpoint come together for an event designed to showcase the unique artists that embody the talent and culture the town has to offer.

ArtWalk is presented by the Pend Oreille Arts Council, an organization whose mission is to facilitate quality experiences in the arts through educational programs and presentations that benefit the people of North Idaho.

The event provides local artists both in and outside of the POAC a chance to exhibit their work in a free citywide event, open to all ages. It begins with a night not to miss on Friday, June 18, from 5:30 to 8pm, when the ArtWalk’s opening reception kicks off downtown. Attendees can preview the artists and plan their route through the event with maps of the walking tour, which are available online.

This year, a number of new businesses will be participating in the ArtWalk for the first time, and the Panida Theater will be a memorable stop on the map. Teresa Pesce has written a series of plays called Art as Theater, inspired by works of art. The artwork is set to be displayed in the Little Panida during ArtWalk’s opening reception.

The Panida Theater opened in 1927 as a vaudeville and movie house, with its name reflecting the area whose culture and talent it sought to highlight: the panhandle of Idaho. It has since hosted film festivals both local and international, dance recitals, live theatre, comedy, educational presentations, concerts and more.

The area’s only full-feature performing arts facility, the Panida takes pride in the experience it offers: impressive acoustics, a 50-inch movie screen, updated sound board, and a space that can hold exceptional talent and audiences.

“There’s truly not a bad seat in this house that can hold 500,” the theater claims, proudly noting its high audience rate for its audience base that averages nearly 200 people in attendance for its hundreds of scheduled performances throughout the year.

Eleven years ago, an unusual play titled Red Tape was one of those performances. Pesce recalls the story of its premiere.

“It was a unique combination of Sandpoint talent,” she described. She wrote the original script inspired by nine massive paintings by internationally renowned artist Stephen Schultz, alongside musician Alan Ball improvising a dialogue counterpoint on a grand piano.

She christened the play Art as Theater, a play based on a story suggested by an artist’s creation.

This year, a new Art as Theater production, now sponsored by the Panida Theater itself as well as the Pend Oreille Arts Council, will premiere on the Panida's main stage on the second weekend of the ArtWalk, taking place June 25 through 27. The series of five original acts written and directed by Pesce is inspired by the works of local artists Patricia Ragone, Suzanne Jewell, Connie Scherr and Scott Kirby.

Pesce emailed her scripts to each artist, asking for their permission for their work to be interpreted for the play. She recalls the artists being incredibly gracious, receiving responses that were genuinely heartfelt.

Suzanne Jewell, artist of Three Houses, responded, “I’m in, flattered and completely intrigued by this idea! What a concept.”

Connie Scherr, who painted The Bridge, wrote back, “Well, my my! My painting inspired this? I am moved. If your play makes it to the stage, I want a front row seat!”

Musician Dave Gunter of Bridges Home also gave a warm welcome to the opportunity to create and perform a musical score inspired by the stories. “Our community is such a wellspring of talent and creativity, and I like the idea that Art as Theater brings them together in this way,” Gunter said. “It’s a fresh concept, and it will be great fun!”

The theater held auditions in April for the series of plays. “I was happy to see so many new faces at the audition,” the theater shared from Pesce. “They are gifted actors, one and all, and I’m excited to work with such a talented cast.”

The cast began weekly rehearsals on May 1, with additional, complete rehearsals set to take place in the last weeks before the event.

“We are excited to bring in the performing arts aspect to ArtWalk,” says POAC Board President Carol Deaner.

Art as Theater will premiere in the Panida Main Theater on Friday, June 25, with a reception at 6:30pm before the 7:30 performance. The play will run on June 25 and 26, with a Sunday matinee showing on June 27 at 3pm, adding to the culture and energy surrounding the ArtWalk.

The citywide ArtWalk, a revolving art exhibit featuring artists at a wide selection of downtown galleries, is free and encourages all ages to attend, beginning the evening of June 18. The event appreciates their many exhibitors, vendors, sponsors and supporters, including Ting internet sponsoring this year’s event brochure.

For more details on the ArtWalk’s event schedule, its featured artists and exhibits, visit The art is set to be on display through the event's closing reception on Friday, September 3, allowing anyone unable to attend the ArtWalk’s opening night to have a chance to enjoy it throughout the summer.

Those interested in attending can follow along on Facebook or at for more information about attending the ArtWalk and the POAC’s additional upcoming events highlighting art in the area.

Local culture is something to celebrate, and this year’s return of the ArtWalk gives art enthusiasts near and far the chance to witness Sandpoint’s thriving arts and culture scene. The chance to celebrate some of the best in the Pacific Northwest, right here in the heart of our city, is one not to miss.

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