‘The place to spend your whole Friday night’: Arts program Coeur d’Alene Emerge gears up for the return of the annual Block Party

After a fire, a pandemic, a move and a name change, Emerge Coeur d’Alene’s annual one-night arts festival returns to Lake City on Friday.

In January 2020, a fire devastated several shops in Coeur d’Alene, forcing the Emerge art studio and education space to relocate. Director Jeni Riplinger-Hegsted said just as they were moving to their current North Second Street location, the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to close their doors.

Riplinger-Hegsted said it took Emerge 1½ years to reopen as the pandemic delayed necessary renovations to the new spaces.

“When we went through all that, I thought, well, we’re reopening, we’re just going to start back where we were and everything will be fine,” Riplinger-Hegsted said. “But it was really like starting from scratch. In a way, we’re still feeling the financial impact of that.”

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

This year’s festival will feature more than 300 artworks by nearly 150 local artists, live music and multiple performances by local poets and acrobats. There will also be a silent disco where wireless headphones will provide the music for individual guests. The block party takes place on Friday from 5 p.m. to midnight, with celebrations taking place both inside and outside of Emerges Studio.

“This is the place to spend all Friday night and we provide you with food, drink, a tremendous amount of entertainment and the opportunity to support so many local artists,” said Riplinger-Hegsted.

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 spoken-word poetry series Broken Mic, and his debut collection Scarecrow Oracle was released earlier this year.

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

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

The event ends with an outdoor silent disco from 20:00 to 24:00. Groceries will be available throughout the evening from local vendors such as the Incrediburger Food Truck, and a beer and wine garden will be available to those 21 and older.

Last year’s event was slightly smaller compared to previous years but still attracted around 4,500 visitors, Riplinger-Hegsted said. Expecting a bigger crowd this year, she said it wouldn’t be possible without the help of more than 50 volunteers working to ensure the festival runs smoothly.

Riplinger-Hegsted said she’s looking forward to bringing people together to celebrate local art again and believes it comes at a much-needed time in the community.

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

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