Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pend Oreille Arts Council Enriches Sandpoint Community

For many who live in small towns, one element often lacking is accessibility to arts and culture. But for residents in the quaint community of Sandpoint, that is far from the case. Here, The Pend Oreille Arts Council has done much in its over thirty years to enrich the lives of both the residents and the visitors who vacation here.

Otherwise known as POAC, the Pend Oreille Arts Council embraces all aspects of art including the performing arts, visual arts and art education. It supports the local art community as well as works hard to bring world renowned performances to this little corner of the Northwest.

“POAC prides itself on bringing culturally diverse - as well as entertaining - professional performances to Sandpoint,” said board member Judy Thompson. “Our mission is to expose children and adults in Bonner County to the broader world of music, dance and theater than they will ever see otherwise. Live theater, real musicians and dancers on stage, not a movie screen or a computer.”

According to Kim Queen, the executive director for POAC, the success of the organization is in part due to the fact that Sandpoint has long been considered an arts town.

“People love the quality of life here and the arts play a significant role in that,” said Queen. “I often hear POAC called ‘the working man’s art organization’ - we bring in high quality, family-oriented performances, and keep the ticket prices affordable.”

Some of the more memorable performances have included the Maori from New Zealand, a drumming group Portland Taiko, Manding Jata from Africa and the Harlem Gospel Choir.

But just how does a small town like Sandpoint attract such world renowned performers?

The answer in part lies with the huge membership they have. With an annual budget of over $200,000, a membership of just over 400, and volunteers that total over 200, it is clear that POAC is the heart of the artistic community in Sandpoint and has the monetary support it needs to thrive.

In addition, Thompson, who serves as the Vice President of Performing Arts, along with the Artist Director Marilyn Sabella, attend booking conferences.

“This gives them a firsthand experience of the touring artists that are available. They then select artists that meet POAC’s mission and goals, while making every effort to work with other agencies in the Inland Northwest to ensure the best quality, pricing, and to take advantage of block-booking opportunities,” said Queen.

This season POAC has already hosted Dutch Swing Fever from the Netherlands, Golden Dragon Acrobats from Hebei, China, and in April they will host Ache’ Brasil, an exciting group with Brazilian roots trained in dance, music and ‘copiera’ – a form of martial arts and acrobatics.

But it is not just at the local Panida Theater that performances take place. During the summer tourists enjoy a stroll down the streets of Sandpoint and are treated to the music of local musicians. In July POAC sponsors free concerts each Sunday at the Dover Bay Marina attracting families and tourists who are looking to relax in the beautiful surroundings of this community. And perhaps what POAC is best known for is the Annual Arts and Crafts Fair each August at Sandpoint City Beach where there is traditionally over 100 artists presented. Visitors to Sandpoint can also enjoy the ArtWalk exhibits which take place throughout the summer months. One can walk through downtown businesses and enjoy the creations of a variety of different artists.

“It is a great partnership between POAC and the local business community,” said Queen.

One of POAC’s biggest fans is Lake Pend Oreille School Superintendent Dick Cvitanich. POAC’s education outreach program called OVATIONS gives students the chance to attend performances free of charge.

“Many of our children live in a relatively isolated world regarding fine arts and cultural diversity,” said Cvitanich. “This program gives them a glimpse into the world at no cost.”

In addition, many of the performers offer workshops at the schools giving students an opportunity to work closely with the artist.

“This is a fabulous opportunity to learn more about the particular art form. It also gives the student a chance to learn more about life as an artist,” said Cvitanich. “None of this would happen without POAC.”

In partnership with Community Assistance League and the Festival at Sandpoint, Cvitanich said the broad outreach that POAC has throughout the school district is unlike any other he has witnessed.

“I believe POAC and the other groups help to make our entire fine arts program better. We have excellent teachers in the fine arts disciplines, K-12, and POAC provides inspiration and opportunities for them to make our school program even better,” said Cvitanich. “I am very proud that POAC is a part of our district and value the relationship.”

As for Judy Thompson, she volunteers her time with many organizations in Sandpoint, but it is clear that POAC is one of those nearest to her heart.

“The opportunity to provide economic opportunity for local musicians and artists is a real motivator (to volunteer),” said Thompson. Through the Arts and Crafts Fair, summer concerts at Dover Bay, the street music in downtown Sandpoint, the Art Walk and the gallery shows at the Powerhouse, POAC does much to showcase the local talent. “We give artists a stage for selling and performing, and at the same time help them make a living at what they love to do. You can’t ask for more than that.”

To learn more about how you can become a POAC member or to inquire about upcoming performances, log onto www.artinsandpoint.org.

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