It all started in 1968 on the Rotary tennis courts at the behest of members of what would become the Citizens’ Council for the Arts.
Artists and makers gathered on the unshaded tennis courts, dealing with triple-digit temperatures, and sold their wares to attendees.
What was there to eat, you ask? Hot dogs and soda.
That event, the first incarnation of Art on the Green, was a fraction of the festival it is today.
Just two years later, the festival expanded to the campus of North Idaho College, where it’s been ever since.
Even as the festival has grown, its mission, to create a marketplace and gathering place for both artists and art fans, has remained the same.
This year’s festival, Friday through Sunday, marks the 50th anniversary of Art on the Green.
To celebrate the occasion, there will be a 50th anniversary exhibit on site as well as a special 50th anniversary art activity each day in the Children’s Art Garden.
On Friday, children can make fairy wings. On Saturday, they can make a cape, and on Sunday, they can create art garden flowers.
With the help of more than 500 volunteers, the 50th year of Art on the Green will feature nearly 200 artists, a mix of first-timers and festival favorites, working within a variety of mediums.
Arcata, California’s Roy Busch, Coeur d’Alene’s Maria Fisher, and Dawn and Chris Sontag of Sandy, Utah, all work with cloth and fiber.
Attendees can find jewelry from Spokane’s Melanie Lieb; Mesa, Arizona’s Scott Palmer; and Fort Worth, Texas’ Bernadette Szanjna at the festival, as well as leather work from Marjorie Dwiggins, of Durall, Washington, and Dustin Lyons, of Joseph, Oregon.
Kyoyko Niikuni, of Monroe, Washington; Spokane’s Ben Joyce; and Alton, New Mexico’s Kevin Smith will all have mixed media work for sale, and Vancouver, Washington’s Michelle Bigelow; Post Falls’ Cindy Draper; and Portland’s Karla Piatt all work with glass.
Kelly Phipps, of Hood River, Oregon; Dean Malispina, of Fircrest, Washington; and Melissa Hollis, of Hayden, all specialize in metal work, while Coeur d’Alene’s Twyla-Lea Jensen; Troy, Montana’s Alan McNiel; and Mount Shasta, California’s Sherry Meline all work with paint.
Check out the photography of Tiffany Hansen and Craig Goodwin, both of Spokane, and Siep Bueneker, of Cave Creek, Arizona, or pottery from Spokane’s Autumn Bunton; Bluffale, Utah’s Camie Lloyd; and McKinleyville, California’s Seth Simpson.
Steve Goodin, of Ogden, Utah; David and Teresa Levy, of Davis, California; and Jerry Simchuk, of Spokane Valley, will have wood pieces on display.
There will also be half a dozen young artists on hand: Natasha Adams, Ezekiel Fee, Addy Harris-Novak, Sarah Hoatson and Sam Mathes, all from Coeur d’Alene, and Carter Keys, from Hermiston, Oregon.
Columbia Fire and Iron will host blacksmith demonstrations all weekend long, and as the weekend goes on, sand artists will create a detailed sandcastle.
Along with the 50th anniversary activities, the Children’s Art Garden, near the South Stage, offers free art activities all weekend long, including easel painting, clay sculpting, friendship bracelets, paint-your-own-T-shirt, gourd design, wooden pendants and more.
On Friday, from 2-3 p.m., children can get hands on experience with marimbas during music hour thanks to the Coeur d’Alene Youth Marimbas.
There will also be story hour in the Children’s Art Garden with special guest readers, including Mayor Steve Widmyer, who will read a story at 4:30 p.m. on Friday.
Children can also learn how to juggle through instruction from David Groth and friends.
Teens and adults interested in creating a piece of art of their very own can take part in one of the classes being offered at Art on the Green, paid for by the Patrick and Sue Flammia Endowment for Art and Music.
On Friday, those 16 years and older can take Raku with Jeff Harris. This class involves glazing the work (1-2:30 p.m., Booth 27).
From 2-3 p.m., Mary Maio will teach those 14 and older charcoal drawing (Juried Show booth).
On Saturday, Harris will teach part two, which involves firing the raku (Booth 27, 16 and older), and Allen and Mary Dee Dodge will teach Drawing for Young and Old (10 a.m.-noon, Juried Show tent, 14 and older).
On Sunday, Jessica Bryant will teach those 14 and older watercolor painting (10 a.m.-noon, Juried Show tent).
Those interested in participating should call (208) 667-9346 or visit the Juried Show booth to see if spaces for classes are available.
On two stages, Art on the Green will also feature a variety of musicians and performers.
On Friday, Norma Jean Louie and the Shooting Stars dancers from the Coeur d’Alene Tribe will bless the festival (11 a.m., North Stage).
Tuxedo Junction will close the North Stage at 7:30 p.m., and the Take Five Jazz Combo will perform on the South Stage at 2 p.m.
On Saturday, the Haran Irish Dancers (1:30 p.m.) and Trego, formerly Folkinception, (4:30 p.m.) will perform on the North Stage, while guitarist Leon Atkinson (11 a.m.) and Gypsy Soul (3:30 p.m.) will perform on the South Stage.
On Sunday, the North Stage will feature ragtime/Americana musician Scott Kirby (10 a.m.), the Sara Brown Band (2:30 p.m.) and Soul Proprietor (4 p.m.), while the South Stage will feature a performance from the Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre (10:30 a.m.) and Celtic music from Howling Gaels (1:30 p.m.).
Food options have expanded quite a bit since the hot dog and soda menu of 1968.
This year’s volunteer-run food booths feature grilled chicken or fish sandwiches, veggie stir-fry, ice cream, snow cones and frozen lemonade, corn on the cob, German sausage and roast beef sandwiches, pulled pork barbecue sandwiches, kettle corn, coffee and granitas, and, new to this year’s festival, wood-fired pizza.
The Healthy Snack Shack offers fresh fruit, green salads, quinoa bowls, protein and energy bars, cold coffee, chai and other drinks. There are organic, vegan and gluten-free options available.
New this year is a booth offering acai bowls, smoothies and fruit bowls.
For attendees 21 and older, there is a wine and beer garden featuring locally crafted beer, wine and hard cider, aka “liquid art,” near the North Stage.
The beer and wine garden is open noon to 9 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
To really put the “green” in Art on the Green, this year’s festival will feature a water bottle filling station, and reusable water bottles will be on sale to help cut down on waste.
Needless to say, there’s something for everyone at Art on the Green, just like the founders intended it.
“There we are the best we can be – creative, peaceful, harmonious, people of all ages coming together to celebrate each other, the arts and community,” Art on the Green founder Sue Flammia wrote in the festival program.