Group offers grassroots support for emerging L-C Valley artists

click to enlarge Paula Coomer
Paula Coomer

By David Jackson
for Inland 360

Whether you’re a musician seeking a way to pay for some studio time or a writer struggling to afford a workshop, the nonprofit group Lewiston-Clarkston Valley Artisans wants to help you get there.

The group started two years ago as “a social and networking organization that got together from time to time,” according to Paula Coomer, its vice president. It will hold its first fundraiser, a bunko night, Sept. 26 at Riverport Brewing Co., in Clarkston. All proceeds will go towards funding its first grant to local artists, musicians, writers, poets or other craftspeople looking to improve their craft.

Asked about the group’s initial goals, Coomer laughed.

“I don’t think anybody was really sure,” she said.

When she was asked to join the group as an officer, Coomer’s idea was to give the group a direction that people really cared about: grants that would allow all types of craftspeople to further their skills by engaging in opportunities they may not get otherwise.

“Creative people never have money to take time off to focus on their writing or acting or painting,” she said.

The idea behind the grant is to allow the recipient to get the additional training or experience they need to take the next step.

“Let’s say you’re an actor and you want to go to a workshop in Portland or you want to go to a conference if you’re a musician or a writer,” Coomer said. “We would entertain the possibility of buying days in a studio if you’re an artist or a writer.”

Applications for the grant will be available at the fundraiser, and the group also plans to post the application on its website. One of the main criteria the group will be looking for is how the grant will be used and what benefit it would have to the area.

“We want to see evidence of artists working their craft,” Coomer said. “We’re looking for a connection with the greater community.  How do you intend to use this to benefit the community?”

Although their net may eventually widen, for the time being, the group is focusing on Lewiston, Clarkston and Asotin for applicants. The main reason, according to Coomer, is to give the L-C Valley a chance to catch up with other local areas.

“Moscow and Pullman are so well covered by so many different factions when it comes to arts and crafts, I feel like the valley is just starting to crank it up in this regard.”

Coomer also stressed that even if group members don’t hit their fundraising target of $500 at Riverport, they will still award a grant. “Even if we only make $100, we’ll have a grant.”

Other board members are Dennis Montoya, president, and Terry Blankenship, treasurer. Montoya, from Clarkston, is an author and penned the sci-fi/fantasy novel “Over the Dragonwall.” Blankenship, who writes under the name Deanna Jewel, is from Lewiston and has published several multi-genre romantic fiction novels.

Coomer, a long-time Clarkston resident who recently relocated to Garfield with her husband, has taught creative writing at Lewis-Clark State College and numerous media classes at Washington State University. Her eighth novel, “Somebody Should Have Scolded the Girl,” was released Sept. 10 and was highlighted this month in the BuzzFeed.com article “18 Books From Smaller Publishers that Deserve Your Attention.”

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Bunko fundraiser for LC Valley Artisans.
WHEN: 5:30 to 9 p.m. Sept. 26.
WHERE: Riverport Brewing Co., 150 Ninth St., Clarkston.
COST: $20 in advance online at lcvartisans.com and $25 at the door.

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