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Two Hazels with a “Bea” in their Bonnets for Art – and an Art Town is Born

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In 2003, Hazel Hall wrote about the creation of Sandpoint as an "Art Town." This is the first of four stories

Foreward by Trish Gannon

            I wanted to interview Hazel Hall. She’s just celebrated her 90th birthday and is one of the most fascinating women I’ve ever met, with a smile that could captivate a nation. “I don’t give interviews,” she told me. “Bob Gunter has asked and so has Sandy Compton.” Well, who am I to go up against that pair?! Bob Gunter is the foremost historian in the area, and a nice man who’s fed me endless cups of coffee on his comfy couch. Sandy Compton is a good friend, an incredible writer, and has the advantage of having dated the daughter of one of Hazel’s neighbors in high school – his connection with this woman goes way back. But I wanted this interview.

            “You have to do this,” I told her. “I want you to.”

            “But Hazel Hall isn’t anybody,” she insisted. “It’s not a story that needs to be told.”

            I knew I had her. “Not anybody?!” I exclaimed. “But Hazel, you know all the stories,” and I expounded on one of my closely-held beliefs – that communities are built by sharing stories. With 70-odd years in this community, Hazel knows the history behind a lot of things – she knows all the stories that haven’t been written yet. She saw my point, so we set up a time to get together again and begin the interview.

            When it comes to Hazel Hall, of course, I had more than met my match. I arrived at her condo overlooking the lake with pen and paper in hand, ready to ask questions and record answers – and then Hazel explained to me what we were doing.

            “This is going to be a huge project,” she said. “And when we’re done, I told the museum we would turn it over to them for their repository.” I was confused, to say the least. “What are we doing?” I asked. “Writing up the history of the arts in the area,” Hazel explained, and gave me a look as if she were wondering if I were, well, a little slow.

            There have been several afternoons since, curled up on Hazel’s living room floor, listening to stories about the growth of arts in this area. Every now and then I took notes, but Hazel would shoot me a sharp glance and say, “I already wrote that down.” Hazel took me on a journey into Sandpoint’s past, and the past of an area much greater than that because art, like most everything else, doesn’t recognize the arbitrary lines we draw on maps. She taught me about this community, and its people. She introduced me to art in all its forms – music and drama and painting and sculpture and the list goes on and on. She showed me that anything can happen if people decide they want it.

            And so it begins. “It’s so big I had to break it up,” Hazel told me one day. “I’m going to do the galleries.” She assigned two friends to take on telling the stories of the growth of music and drama, and I won’t mention their names in case they don’t know yet the magnitude of what they’re taking on.

            Over the next few weeks I ran into Hazel all over Sandpoint because she decided to visit every single gallery that exists today. She wrote to all corners of the globe for information on galleries past and present, and has compiled a foot-high stack of paperwork for “research” for this story.

            This is just the first part, where Hazel will introduce you to the first galleries in Sandpoint, and the two latest. Next issue, we’ll take on the galleries in between – and if there’s anyone out there who hasn’t gotten their information to Hazel yet, this is your deadline reminder. On page 12 you’ll also find the story of the beginning of POAC, which Hazel believes deserves a story of its own. And there will be stories to come about murals in town as well. All in all, look for the history of the arts in this area to unfold over the next couple of months.

            One last word. Hazel wrote the story that follows, but I couldn’t resist adding in some things from the surreptitious notes I made. Because Hazel Hall really is somebody. She arrived in Sandpoint in the 1930s with her husband, Ross, a photographer a few of you may have heard of. They bought Mrs. Himes’ studio on First Avenue, and were an integral part of the growth of this community that grew from the shores of a “sandy pointe.”

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You’ve heard that Sandpoint is called an “art town,” – but for an area settled by miners and loggers, rough and hardy pioneer families, how does that come about?

            The beginning of organized arts in Sandpoint started 40 years ago this summer, in July of 1963. It has certainly had its growing pains, and it didn’t reach a certain maturity until the Pend Oreille Arts Council, the Festival at Sandpoint, and the Panida Theater all had paid executive directors.

            So what is art? I believe it can be likened to searching for truth, searching beyond for that innate calling within us to create a better world in both the spiritual and science. Whether the great longing is art, science or religion, it all blends into the mystery of God.

            No artist am I, but like most I am an appreciator. So I take this time to thank all those many artists, and those hundreds of people who have spent endless hours along the way in the creation of this “art town.”

            Arts before 1963 centered mostly around the schools, the churches and lodges. The Civic Club was born to nourish the finer side of life. The museum was becoming very active in the 30s and 40s. But first, let me take you into the galleries.

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            When Katie Moon Littlefield and Betty Wyatt hung their paintings on the board fence where Gunnings Alley stands today, the first gallery in Sandpoint was born. Katie said they sold one picture, for $25. The occasion was a delight for the public.

            But the first “real” gallery was born when three women (Hazel LaMoreaux, Bea Fisher and Hazel Hall) were standing in front of Jennstads clothing store (now Finan McDonald) and talking about the opening of Schweitzer Mountain for skiing that November. “Our athletic sons were all excited,” Hazel Hall explained.

            It was Hazel LeMoreaux who spoke the fateful words: “What this town needs is the arts to balance our very sports-minded community.”

            Bea said, “That’s right, but what concerns me most right now is it’s Idaho’s 100th Territorial Centennial and nothing is being done to celebrate.”

            Hazel Hall said, “let’s talk about it,” and the trio made their way down to Bower’s Bakery (where the Floor Show is now) for a cup of coffee, donuts and some plotting. Over that coffee they planned an entire pageant, the first for Sandpoint, which was performed that Fourth of July. Don Miller of the Sandpoint News-Bulletin wrote the script and narrated that holiday night.

            All the arts came together in near perfection, from the huge, painted backdrop to the entry of show horses and covered wagons. It was drama and music of all kinds and it ended with fireworks and a tribute to Schweitzer.

            “What we realized right away was that there was an enormous amount of talent in this town,” Hazel said. “And it needed to be harnessed.”

            One small piece of that talented picture was Marilyn Sabella, owner of Eve’s Leaves in Sandpoint – then Marilyn Dalby and a 14-year-old student with a part in the play. “I had a tandem bicycle and I rode in (on it) with my boyfriend to A Bicycle Built for Two,” she recalled. “It was such an honor to be a part of that.”

            “We were scared to death that no one would come,” Hazel Hall reminisces today. But so many arrived for the show that the 25 cents the trio charged paid for all the expenses and left enough to start a gallery for the arts.

            It was called “The Center” – a place where all the arts could come together.

            “Mr. Mamud on First Street had just vacated his building and he let us have it free,” Hazel explained.

            A board was formed and Al Peterson, head of Mountain States Power, was the chairman. A committee was established to help organize, with Donalee Chicks as president and Joan Hawkins as secretary/treasurer.

            “Hazel LaMoreaux managed the Center very ably with her energy, time and money. It was becoming a little school, with classes for painting, dance and music. But then Mr. Maund sold the building and we had to disband. The American Legion offered us the old Gem Theater and we were starting to fix that up when it was sold to Middle Earth. We tried to carry on – we had a couple of successful plays at the high school – but it is difficult without a headquarters.”

            Bernice Lewis came up with the idea of needed a summer theater – “So she was able to persuade the DuCrests from Big Mountain’s summer theaters to look at Sandpoint. And that’s another story we will write about,” Hazel promised.

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The Galleries

            The Cabin/Mace Gallery: Jean Deubal Mace is a Sandpoint native artist whose name is well recognized in the Northwest arts world. Jean says there’s never been a time in her life when she did not enjoy some form of art. She can remember drawing pictures by the hour for her little brother when he had rheumatic fever – and this could have been the cause that led her into her art profession.

            Be it any scene in Boundary County or a cold, shivering man in the snow – one can feel her feelings in her paintings.

            The Mace’s three grown children are artists in their own right; daughter Judith is becoming known for her “mini-miniatures.”

            Husband Lew built a studio upstairs for more room and light. He also does all the framing of pictures for Jean and anyone else.

            The Cabin Gallery will be 25 years old in October of this year; watch for their open house. The gallery is located on old Highway 95 in Naples, just beyond Deep Creek Inn going north. It’s tucked in the woods on the right side of the road – watch for signs.

            Hall of Frames: In 1981 Holly and Gary Kroeger, a young, artistic couple just out of college from Gunnerson, Colo., headed to the Northwest to make their home. When they saw Sandpoint, this was it.

            They located a gallery in Foster’s Crossing they named Hall of Frames, where they not only did framing, but featured a variety of art shows. One of the most unusual was an invitational Master Calligraphers from the United States. Response from calligraphers and enjoyment from the guests was amazing for such a small area.

            After a time they sold their supplies to Ward Tollbom, and went into different kinds of printing. They now teach at Rocky Mountain Academy.

            Hen’s Tooth Studio: Ward Tollbom, a true native of Sandpoint, along with his wife, Elizabeth, bought the Hall of Frames gallery and changed the name to Hen’s Tooth. It’s located at 323 North First, the location where Ward’s father operated as a butcher. (Ed. Note: this was incorrect, and was noted so in the following issue. Ward’s father’s was not located at 323 N. First.)

            Ward said he became interested in art when “in tenth grade, my dad gave me a set of oil paints. Though I didn’t use them, the thought was always at the back of my head. One day I was out hunting and shot a little bird. I picked it up and held it in my hand. I felt its form and saw the beautiful, incandescent feathers. Likewise with fish I caught – I began to see their shape and color. My paints! I could capture the wonder of nature.” He tried it, and loved what he felt.

            Ward has come a long way from his first picture hanging on the wall of his dad’s meat market. He is now world-renowned for his incredibly detailed watercolors. He is a highly respected artist whose expertise in birds, fish and flowers is unrivaled.

            Selkirk Gallery: In the early 80s, Ellen and Jim Klein moved to this area and the first thing Ellen did was work for Paintworks on First Street (it’s now the Paint Bucket on Pine Street).

            As she matted and framed pictures, she began to recognize the many artists around here and felt they needed a place downtown to display their work. She rented a large space in Gunning’s Alley right were Katie Littlefield had her first “board fence show” in the 1950s.

            Later, the size of the gallery was reduced, but Ellen continued to mat and frame pictures, and sponsor private showings. She sold her business in 2000, and feels POAC is doing a fine job promoting local artists.

            The Chris Kraisler Gallery: Chris and David Kraisler came from Scottsdale, Ariz., three years ago, choosing Sandpoint as their new, inspirational venue.

            David’s work challenges mainstream contemporary thinking. His work is exhibited in major museums that have prestigious, private collections.

            The Kraislers have entered into the arts and civic life of Sandpoint, and Chris teaches at North Idaho College. Their gallery is located at 517 N. Fourth Ave. Welcome to Sandpoint.

Gallery 105: This is our latest gallery, located at 105 S. First. Kally Thurman, a native of Idaho, wants a gallery to bridge the maker and the public in the realm of contemporary art. Her current exhibit, “The Book, Re-Defined,” celebrates the recent Lost Horse Press conference. IT is over June 15 – see it, it’s wonderful. The gallery is open noon to 6 pm Wednesday through Sunday.

           

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