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Panida's Bowers Awarded

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Executive Director to Receive Governor's Award in Arts Administration This Week

On Saturday September the 14th Karen Bowers, executive director of the Panida Theater, will receive the Governor’s Award in Arts Administration. Jane Fritz, who nominated Karen, says in a letter supporting the nomination “(Karen) is much more nurturing than that harsh word “administrator” might imply.”
Bowers came to the Panida out of a love for the arts. She received her BFA in Theater from UCLA and considered an acting career. Like most new actresses Karen needed to support her career with some other source. This brought her to the Sandpoint area in 1972 to plant trees. Once here, she fell in love with North Idaho. 
That year she bought property here but was not ready to make the move yet. She went back to her native Southern California to continue the pursuit of an acting career. Over the next few years she returned to Sandpoint many times and finally, in 1978, she decided it was time and North Idaho was where she was supposed to be.
She knew, of course, this move would put an end to a fledgling career in the theater. To her surprise, being an accomplished actress in Sandpoint opened up opportunities for parts that are only available to “big names” in L.A. Here the local theatre groups needed strong people for the best parts and Karen played many of them.
Like any artist she still needed to support her habits, such as eating regular meals, buying gas for her car, and keeping a roof over her head. This led to many traditional “theater jobs” like waitress and radio work. Later she started and published What’s Happening in Sandpoint, a paper mostly of arts activities in the area. Another full time job she loved was being the mother of two daughters.
She became president of the Unicorn Players, plus through her work in all the arts in the area she was getting to know many people and they knew her and her dedication to the community. When the job as executive director of the Panida opened she was offered the job. On September 1, 1987 she started a new career in Theater Administration.
Fifteen years later her love of the Panida and excitement for her job is still obvious. She said, “The award is really for the Panida - all of the boards and volunteers and technical director Bill Lewis.” She does not see herself as the “star” but as one of the workers and is always quick to give credit to all the people involved with this historic venue. “The award is really an acknowledgement of the blood, sweat, and tears over the years of many people,” she said. Bowers feels many others need to be mentioned, including the "Panida Moms" Laurel Wagers, Jane Evens, and Susan Bates-Harbuck, along with Bill Lewis and David Gunter. “David has helped me so much and always as a volunteer,” she said. “Really there are many more – too many to name.”
Karen does not have a “day” job - this is really a “day-night-weekend” job. She not only is the director, but is also the manager, which leaves little time for her. However she does make a little Karen time. Soon she will leave for three weeks in Peru. “I want to do everything I can while I’m there,” she said with her usual high energy. She plans to raft rivers, climb mountains and, of course, visit Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail.
When at home she takes care of herself by doing NEA dance, an aerobic dance using more traditional dance than calisthenics. She enjoys yoga and exploring her spiritual self by reading, with friends or by personal reflection. 
Foraging for mushrooms, and cooking and teaching others about them gets some of her attention. 
“I’m a Francophile. I love everything about France,” she beams. “Everything. The culture, the food, everything. And I love to dance the tango but I don’t get much opportunity.” This doesn’t sound like a lament but a fact that she is comfortable with.
Still the job takes most of her time and when you visit with her you can tell that is the way she wants it. Karen is much more than an administrator - she really is a nurturing, loving force that guides the 75-year-old Panida, making it the center of the community that it is. For this she gets the Governors Award in the Arts on Saturday, and it’s very deserving. 

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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

Tagged as:

Sandpoint, Panida Theater, Karen Bowers

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