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Hospital walls alive with artistic talent

Thursday, October 1, 2015

by Ed Moreth, Sanders County Ledger

The Sanders County Arts Council kicked off one of its biggest Art on the Walls shows at Clark Fork Valley Hospital with 66 items stretching down the hallway near the main entrance.

"I can't believe there's this much talent in this town," said Rachel Gonzales, who has been a participant of the program since it began in 2007.

The arts council and hospital held a reception Thursday evening to mark the beginning of the fourth quarter exhibit, which highlights paintings, ceramics, woodworks, and photographs. Photography pieces have grown steadily in the last eight years, said Joy Nelson, one of three art council coordinators of the show, along with Karen Thorson and Arlene Littlefield. Sue Honts Mann had the most items in the exhibit with a dozen photos in the show. Her frog picture, titled "Ribbit, Ribbit," was sold in the opening minutes of the show.

Gonzales had 11 works of art of oil, acrylic and watercolor paintings. The 89-year-old Plains woman paints on canvas, metal and wood, large and small. "She paints on anything that stands still," said Nelson.

The exhibit had a wide variety of mediums, sizes and subject matter. Thirteen artists were Plains residents and one, Cricket Johnston, is from Thompson Falls. First-time shower Ellen Childress had the smallest work, a five inch long ceramic piece she titled "Pumpkin Leaf Wall Pocket." Rick Harter had the largest piece with an acrylic painting called "Arlene's Island," measuring 43X49 inches.

"As an employee, this really brightens up my day every time I walk down this hallway," said Carla Neiman, the hospital's chief financial officer. "It never ceases to amaze me how much artistic talent there is in this small community," said Neiman. "I look forward to continuing our partnership with the arts council."

The artists are given the opportunity to sell their work, and most do, said Nelson. The Clark Fork Valley Hospital Foundation gets 10 percent of the sale and the arts council, also a nonprofit organization, gets 30 percent. The hospital also provides goodies for the reception at the start of each show. It took Nelson, Littlefield and Thorson more than two hours to set up the exhibit.

During the quarter, spectators can select their favorite art piece for the "People's Choice Award." Barbara Mullins of Noxon has only participated in two Art on the Walls shows and both times won the award, last quarter for a water color of two polar bears titled "My Mother," and in the spring she won with an oil painting called "The Blue Roan Stallion."

Gaynelle Stamm of St. Regis said it was tough choosing her favorite because of all the high quality art. Stamm's husband, Jack Stamm, along with Kathy Logan, provided entertainment during the reception with their hammer dulcimers. Logan's wooden instrument was made by John Meckler of Plains, who had eight pieces of wood art in the show and gave a chip carving demonstration during the reception.

The Sanders Council Arts Council puts on three adult shows and one student show a year. There were 40 pieces in the summer exhibit. Nelson said anyone interested in participating in the art exhibit could call her at 826-8585, Karen Thorson at 826-0500 or Arlene Littlefield at (215) 271-1954.

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