By Ben Olson
When you walk into the Infini Gallery in Sandpoint, invariably the first thing Kris Dills says is, “Make yourself at home.”
The owner of the newest art gallery and studio in Sandpoint, Dills has worked hard to cultivate that feeling of home at Infini. After attending one of his painting workshops, I can attest that whatever he’s doing is working.
The gallery is warm, modern and adorned with hardwood flooring from wall to wall. The paintings that line the wall vary from landscapes to abstracts, all featuring cool, funky designs and color schemes.
In the center of the room, a raised platform features 16 stalls for the classes, each with a canvas and painting supplies at hand. Dills hopes the “wine and canvas” type events will not only generate income for the gallery, but open up painting to a wide variety of people.
“I want people to feel like they can work here comfortably,” said Dills. “You can bring your own materials and work in a professional downtown environment, or you can use our materials.”
Dills, who worked as a plumber in Sandpoint for 16 years, opened Infini Gallery and Studio after having a realization about the future.
“I turned 44 in November,” he said. “Looking at my next 40 years and what I wanted to do with it, I figured I had two options. One, I could plumb for another 20 years and get old. Or I could do something I really love to do.”
Growing up outside of Chicago in Gary, Indiana, Dills was always drawn to art. He worked in graphic design, designing corporate logos for several years before moving to Sandpoint.
“Once I got up here, I said, ‘This is it,’” he said. Dills worked as a plumber for Noble Plumbing while raising his three children, always hoping for a chance to utilize his artistic abilities.
After looking at a few different storefronts, he landed on the gallery at 214 Cedar Street and fell in love with it.
“We’re in the beermuda triangle here,” he said, referring to the fact that he’s surrounded on all sides by pubs. To the west is MickDuff’s Beer Hall, to the east is Eichardt’s. Across Cedar is Idaho Pour Authority. Dills never has to travel far for a frothy mug.
Dills aims to update the artwork in the gallery every month and feature new artists often. Currently he features work from Sandra Deutchman and Holly Walker, as well as several pieces he did himself. He has also joined POAC, and hopes to tap into that resource for future works to hang.
Aside from painting sales, the regular “wine and canvas” events taught by Dills and fellow artist Holly Walker will generate the majority of income for Infini.
“We have watercolors, paper, adult coloring books, acrylic paints,” said Dills. “Another cool thing we offer is to provide people with cameras. They can leave an ID and take a camera, shoot some photos, then plug it into the Corel Painter program and turn the photos into a painting instantly. You can even just rent a computer and pay for the time you use it.”
To get a sense of how the painting classes might work, Dills invited my girlfriend Cadie and me to a class on a Thursday night. We would be joined by a spirited group of hairdressers from Syringa Salon.
After saying hello and popping the cork on a few wine bottles, Dills sat us in front of our blank canvases and began the instruction. We were to create a simple landscape with a sunset sky and either water or a mountain range in the foreground.
Whether you paint often or haven’t yielded a brush, Dills has a way of making you feel at home and comfortable. He gives just the right amount of instruction, and also steps back to let people go their own direction.
As the wine flowed, the night was punctuated by laughter. At one point, all the women decided to paint mustaches on their faces. I think the wine had something to do with it.
It was fun to walk around the studio looking at each participant’s painting. They all started with the same premise, but each output was so unique.
For the modest price Dills charges, the classes are the perfect answer for a fun date night, or a group of friends looking to do something different to do. Also, in the case of Syringa Salon, it was a great way for the hairdressers to get together and do something outside of the “office.”
Leaving Infini Gallery, I realized how lucky we are to have people like Kris Dills in Sandpoint. Not only is he a great artist and a fun person to talk with, he has made art more accessible.
To inquire about painting classes or to check out the gallery, go down to Infini Gallery and studio on Cedar Street right next to MickDuff’s Beer Hall and talk to Kris yourself, or call 610-1232.
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