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Roughly 1,000 artworks in $2 million Coeur d’Alene gallery inventory ‘rained’ on in flood

UPDATED: Fri., Feb. 12, 2021

Art Spirit Gallery manager Kylie Sparks stands in the gallery’s basement as she talks about the morning of the flood that happened there the weekend of Jan. 31 during an interview on Friday.  (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)
Art Spirit Gallery manager Kylie Sparks stands in the gallery’s basement as she talks about the morning of the flood that happened there the weekend of Jan. 31 during an interview on Friday. (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)

For the first time in 19 years, the basement normally filled with The Art Spirit Gallery’s inventory in Coeur d’Alene is completely empty.

Blair Williams, owner of the gallery, has not lost hope yet, though the last two weeks have tested her.

Jan. 30, she discovered that roughly 1,200 pieces in her gallery’s 2,000-piece collection were drenched. A clean water intake line into a toilet snapped and filled the upstairs with water. The flood destroyed two-thirds of its hickory hardwood floors, soaked through and “rained” down on the inventory in the basement below, Williams said.

“We will get through this,” Williams said. “We’re looking for the lemonade moments, those opportunities to fix those things we would’ve liked to fix in the past.”

The first three days, she and her team made 180 calls to artists so they’d hear first from the gallery itself, and then they dialed 90 more numbers of clientele who’d purchased art, Williams said.

An art restoration team out of Portland, called in by the gallery’s insurance company, is going through each piece touched by water and has so far assessed 180, Williams said.

She doesn’t have a rough number of dollars lost to the flood yet, but said she had $2.2 million worth of art in the gallery, with about $200,000 owned by the company outright.

But Williams has good insurance, both for the building and the business. Insurance will directly pay artists whose pieces were there on consignment, Williams said.

The trauma to the gallery isn’t over yet, though.

“Every day we joke we’ve had a new plot twist,” Williams said.

They’re worried about mold for now. To dry the place out, they’ve got three dehumidifiers running. Each collected eight gallons of water per day for the first 10 days they ran, representing roughly 240 gallons of water purged from the broken pipe. They’ve cranked up the heat to speed up drying, but are now on the lookout for mold growing in its ideal warm and wet environment.

Still, Williams says her team, including personnel from two insurance companies, is working like a well-oiled machine. They estimate they will have the remainder of the inventory assessed in two weeks, with the gallery opened back up in April.

They are thinking creatively about what options arise in an emptied-out space, and artists and clientele have been understanding, she said.

“We feel like we’re taking a masterclass in how to do this,” Williams said. “We just have our heads down and our hearts full.”

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