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‘The place to spend your whole Friday night’: Coeur d’Alene arts program Emerge gets ready for return of annual Block Party

July 7, 2022 Updated Thu., July 7, 2022 at 9:31 p.m.

A bowl by Reinaldo Gil Zambrano on display at Emerge on May 11.  (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)
A bowl by Reinaldo Gil Zambrano on display at Emerge on May 11. (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)

After a fire, a pandemic, a relocation and a renaming, Emerge Coeur d’Alene’s annual one-night art festival will return to the Lake City on Friday.

In January 2020, a fire tore through several businesses in Coeur d’Alene and forced the art studio and education space Emerge to relocate. Director Jeni Riplinger-Hegsted said just as they moved into their current location on North Second Street, the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to shut their doors.

Riplinger-Hegsted said it took 1½ years for Emerge to reopen, since the pandemic delayed the renovations necessary in the new space.

“When we went through all of that, I thought, well, we’re reopening, we’re just gonna start right back where we were and everything will be fine,” Riplinger-Hegsted said. “But it really was like starting all over. In some ways, we’re still feeling the financial effects of that.”

The annual Emerge Block Party, formerly called the Pop-Up Shop, is one of Coeur d’Alene’s largest local art events. Riplinger-Hegsted said it also serves as one of Emerge’s biggest annual fundraisers, allowing the studio to continue to provide low-cost and free arts education for students of all ages.

This year’s festival will feature more than 300 pieces of art from nearly 150 local artists, live music and several performances from local poets and acrobats . There will also be a silent disco, with wireless headphones providing the music for individual guests. The block party will take place from 5 p.m. to midnight Friday, with the festivities both inside and outside of Emerge’s studio.

“This is the place to spend your whole Friday night, and we’ve got you covered with food, drinks, an immense amount of entertainment and the chance to support so many local artists,” Riplinger-Hegsted said.

Riplinger-Hegsted said some of the region’s best poets will be in attendance, including former Spokane poet laureate Mark Anderson. Anderson is the founder of the Broken Mic spoken word poetry series, and his debut collection “Scarecrow Oracle” was published earlier this year.

There will also be performances from up-and-coming local acts like newly formed indie band The Red Books, mixed-media artist and musician Willow Tree and Spokane-based goth rock supergroup Cruel Velvet.

In the center of the studio space, local contortionist Krissany Knoles will display her talents as an aerial acrobat on long silks attached to the wooden beams of the ceiling, Riplinger-Hegsted said.

The event will wrap up with an outdoors silent disco from 8 p.m. to midnight. Food will be available for purchase all evening from local vendors like the Incrediburger food truck, and a beer and wine garden will be available for those 21 and older.

Last year’s event was a bit smaller compared to years past, but it still attracted around 4,500 visitors, Riplinger-Hegsted said. She is expecting a larger crowd this year, and said the whole thing would not be possible without the help of more than 50 volunteers working to ensure the festival runs smoothly.

Riplinger-Hegsted said she is excited to bring folks together to celebrate local art again, and thinks it comes at a much-needed time in the community.

“Lately, we’ve seen a lot of extreme groups gathering, and I think it makes the people that are here trying to build up a more diverse, inclusive community feel isolated,” Riplinger-Hegsted said. “So when Emerge has these events, people see that this is the community they want to be a part of, and want to help cultivate and support.”

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