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Coulee City hosts April Fools Art Walk

by JOEL MARTIN
Staff Writer | April 8, 2022 1:00 AM

COULEE CITY — About 400 people visited Coulee City on April 1 to wander through downtown businesses and look over art. That’s pretty impressive for a town of fewer than 600.

“I had printed up about 200 of these maps,” said event organizer Don Nutt, who owns Cariboo Trail Studio in Coulee City. “And I handed out all but just a few of them. And some of the groups are five or six people with a map. So doing the math, I'm guessing maybe 400. Which is a good crowd for Coulee City.”

The art walk consisted of 14 artists and authors, who set up their displays inside of eight businesses on Main Street. Exhibitors came from all over central and eastern Washington – Brewster, Okanogan, Soap Lake, Waterville – as well as Coulee City itself.

“It’s a perfect town for it,” said Keith Nielsen, who came up from Moses Lake with his wife Melinda and their dog Bella. “I’ve been through Coulee City but actually coming in and seeing the town; I’m excited.”

The hub of activity was Cariboo Trails Studio, where Nutt showed his own oil paintings, largely centered on western themes and desert landscapes. Sharing the space was Lyn D. Nielsen of Soap Lake, the author of a trilogy of novels as well as a children’s book titled “Hey, There’s a Dog on my Feet!”

Nielsen lived in Coulee City years ago, she said, so the show was kind of like a homecoming for her.

“I lived in Coulee City when I wrote the first book of the trilogy, ‘Places of Sage.’ And then we had to move away because my husband worked on the west side as a builder in Seattle. So after nine years of commuting back and forth, I moved back to the west side. I finished the second book over there. And then we moved back here in 2017. So we kind of came full circle. And really happy to be back. Being back in Coulee City on Friday for that Art Walk meant a lot to me, because that's where I lived when it all began.”

Down the street from the studio, in the Spokane Teachers Credit Union building, local historian Mick Qualls, of Ephrata, had a display of books and memorabilia related to the region’s Old West heritage.

“Coulee City is famous for its gambling halls and wild women,” Qualls said, noting that five U.S. presidents had passed through the town.

Another local history guru, Dan Bolyard of Coulee City, had a table set up in the Coulee City Public Library where he was offering copies of his latest book, a history of Ephrata. Bolyard also authored a book focused on his special passion, titled “Big Bend Railroads.”

The library itself got into the act too, with shelves of mini-canvases painted by local library patrons.

Inside the Ideal Endeavors shop, which offers a stunning array of wood carvings, Waterville artist Amy Larsen had staked out a corner and filled it with her paintings.

“I’ve been incredibly busy,” she said. “Everyone is happy to be out and about.”

Among Larsen’s offerings were portions of a year-long project she had set herself, individual leaves in a variety of media.

“It was a project several years ago,” she said. “I wanted to do 365 leaves, one for each day of the year. I got them done, but the last third was kind of like pulling teeth.”

But, art takes work, as does a citywide arts show.

The art walk began as a vague idea back in November, Nutt said. He’d been doing private shows at his studio for years, attracting art lovers from all over the state, but the pandemic had made a lot of people uncomfortable in his small shop. So, he put out some feelers on Facebook and mentioned his idea to a few friends, and it sold out quickly, he said.

Next Nutt went door to door to local businesses, asking which ones would be willing to host artists. Downtown Coulee City is pretty compact, he pointed out, so it wasn’t a very long walk. And he found merchants were enthusiastic about the idea.

“They went whole hog on this thing,” he said. “They really went all out, helping us out and baking cookies for the customers and all that kind of thing. So it was a really nice thing ... kind of unifying the community again, after the pandemic kind of forced everybody into their homes, for everybody to get out.”

There will certainly be more art walks, Nutt added, although whether it will be annually or biannually is still up in the air.

His efforts weren’t lost on the artists, many of whom expressed their appreciation for his work. Ralph Reed, whose wife Barbara Conner Reed was showing paintings, summed it up in one short statement.

“Don put on a helluva show,” he said.

Joel Martin can be reached via email at jmartin@columbiabasinherald.com.

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Attendees at the April Fools Art Walk check out the offerings at Cariboo Trail Studio in Coulee City April 1.

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Joel Martin/Columbia Basin Herald

Author Lyn D. Nielsen, left, chats with Nancy Winterooth at Cariboo Trail Studio in Coulee City April 1. Nielsen was signing books as part of the April Fools Art Walk.

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Joel Martin/Columbia Basin Herald

The Coulee City Public Library invited patrons to paint a mini-canvas for display during the April Fools Art Walk April 1.

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Joel Martin/Columbia Basin Herald

An alcohol ink painting by Tina Reeve Tharp is on display at the April Fools Art Walk April 1 in Coulee City. The event drew a relatively large crowd to check out the work of area artists.

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Joel Martin/Columbia Basin Herald

Amy Larsen shows some of her paintings at the April Fools Art Walk in Coulee City April 1. Larsen was one of several artists and authors that participated in the event.

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Joel Martin/Columbia Basin Herald

Amy Larsen set herself a task of painting a single leaf every day for a year, some of which were on display at the April Fools Art Walk April 1 in Coulee City.

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