It is difficult to know much about a person as you pass them on the sidewalk. Sure, you can gauge all of the visible traits they have, but what about the stories that have unfolded, making them who they are? Most times you would never guess who they are by looking at what they are.
Take Marshall Peterson for example. If you passed him on the street, you would see a rather happy fellow, most likely with a smile on his face, and spring in his step. But would you look at him and think, “There goes a well known international photographer who has lived all around the world?” You might not think it, but it is true.
Marshall grew up in Spokane, but like most recent high school graduates in the area, he set out for bigger and better things, moving to Seattle, where he attended the University of Washington. To help pay his way through college, he played music, something that had been an important part of his life from 5th grade on.
Nights were spent playing gigs, and days were spent pursuing his degree in Political Science. “It gave me the chance to think about life, society, history and the role of individuals in society, exploring how systems worked,” he says of his chosen course of study. “It made me realize, in society and in life, you have to nurture something. At some point, if you stop caring for your garden, it stops thriving.”
After graduating, Marshall moved to Guadalajara, Mexico where he lived for ten years, working as a photographer, and showing his work at more than 80 exhibitions. “I was an ethnographer,” he says of his time spent studying and photographing the Mexican culture. Blending his love of music and photography, he became well known for his live music shots. Photographing live music events, with so much movement of light and people, is incredibly challenging, but is something that Marshall thrived at and enjoyed. His work became well known, and he was invited by the organizers of the Berlin Film Festival to work with them both in Mexico and Germany, on some of their festivals, mentoring and photographing the talent competitions.
With a taste of international living, it may surprise some that Marshall’s next move was back to Spokane. “I came home to spend time with my mom,” he says. “She is getting older and I realized I hadn’t spent time with her as an adult, and I wanted that opportunity.”
So home he came, leaving behind the international lifestyle. What he didn’t leave behind though is his love for the arts, and his passion for contributing to the society in which he lives. One way he is able to incorporate those passions is through his work with the Marmot Art Space in Kendall Yards.
“It is the best time ever to be in Spokane for arts and culture,” he says. “Things are looking up. Part of it is being recognized by publications as a great place to live, but it is not just what is happening here, but the people who care.”
When he opened Marmot, three years ago, in Kendall Yards, it was the first art space in the West Central Neighborhood. “Marmot exists for a variety of reasons,” he says. “Every community needs an art gallery. It completes a package. Is a community complete without an art gallery? I don’t think so. I want to have a place people can go to on a Friday night. I want to get people out, interacting, and away from a screen. Everyone is welcomed at Marmot, including kids.”
The name for the gallery came from the friendly marmots who dot eh landscape along the river. “We were displacing the marmots, so I figured the least we could do is name the gallery after them. Plus,”he says, “I’m like a marmot — cute and cuddly! I didn’t want the name to be pretentious, so the name was Marmot Art Space.”
While Marshall features other artists, his painting skills are on display every day. “Yeah, I am pretty good at painting — white on white,” he says, referring to the interior walls which he refreshes after each exhibit.
Marshall’s goal of having an engaged, involved and interacting community through art takes time and effort. His days are full, finding the artists he will feature, coordinating shows, marketing the events, working with the artists to help them know how to be ready for all that comes with a show. “It’s like being a trainer for the artists,” he says of prepping them for a new show. “They know their technique, but no one has taught them how to market and present their work. The end result is they would like someone to invest in their piece, and to enjoy it, so I help with everything that happens between creating and selling the piece.”
Marmot Art Space has space available for 10 to 12 artists per year, which Marshall recognizes is a small amount of the thousands of artists in the area. While he can’t share all of the artists with the community, his goal is to continue to run the Marmot as long as the community supports it. Luckily, this international photographer, turned curator and director, is doing an excellent job of focusing Spokane’s lens on great artists, and the community seems to see the value in it.
To learn more about Marmot Art Space, visit www.marmotartspace.com
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment other than your family?
To live abroad, specifically living in Mexico with the Mexicans, and to be accepted into their culture. I focused my lens on them, so they felt respected, and accepted me.
What is the most important contribution you’ve made to Spokane over the last 10 years?
I am an arts cheerleader for the community. I’ve been yelling “Go team, Go Spokane!” I hope I have behaved in a way that supports people and shows I am involved. I am all about the team of Spokane.
What qualities do you look for in a friend?
I like to interact with ethically appropriate individuals! Honesty and loyalty are ideals. I want to be able to learn from them. I think I really enjoy learning from others. There is always a chance to learn.
Aside from your family, what is your most treasured possession?
My camera has taken me all over the world and is such a cherished possession. (For those wondering, he is in the Cannon camp.)
With all the activities you juggle, how do you handle the stress that might come with it? What keeps you grounded and focused?
When I am working with people and a team, I don’t really get stressed. But meditating helps. I walk everyday and I do yoga. I like to build things in a way that people don’t cause me to stress out.
Do you have a cherished family tradition?
We laugh a lot! My mom is funny and we always laugh together. I used to be more sarcastic but I realized not everyone speaks that language.
What are your favorite places to travel, and leisure activities in which to participate?
France. Paris is awesome, but it would be fun to spend a decade living in one of the outlying villages.
What is your favorite for each of the following?
Book: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. It was the first book that really had an impact on me.
Movie: Star Wars. You can’t beat any of those movies; they are philosophical!
TV Show: I haven’t owned a television for over 20 years.
Who do you really admire?
It is not a specific person; rather, I really admire people who have tackled adversity and are still on their feet. People who have succeeded without harming others in the process. People who are kind when they could choose to be unkind toward others.
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now? Future goals?
The owner of a tiny home, living in a tiny home. I am working on promoting the lifestyle of a smaller footprint. I like to contemplate ways I can do this, not in ways others can do it. It is up to me.
What is one thing you have to do every day?
Get up and stick a smile on my face. Life is not much fun if you are not giving it a good shot.
What is, hands down, your favorite food or meal?
I love pasta with a mixture of wild mushroom and cream sauce, with spices selected by the chef! The thing I eat most often is crisp Veraci pizza. Have you tried it? They are always coming up with new pizzas, and it is so good.
Any hidden talents, or fun trivia facts about you?
I can juggle and ride a unicycle. I’ve never done both at the same time though. I can also dunk a basket on a child-sized hoop!
Describe your perfect day.
A day I wake up alive, inside and dry. I get time to myself and I get time with other people. There is laughter, hugging, and pleasant words are exchanged with people. Then I go back to sleep at the end of the day.
What are some local organizations whose causes you support, either by attending an event for them, or you are just a fan of their cause?
Project Hope. It is a West Central based job training program. They work with community gardens and teach everything from the planting to the selling of the harvested produce. Who could say no to giving kids job skills? I am also a big fan of Leadership Spokane. I was a scholarship winner and was in the 2014-2015 class. There are incredible people in there, and you get the chance to sit and discuss things with people — even ones with whom you have different views, but you can talk.
What is the best advice you have been given?
Yoda’s quote, “Do or do not, there is no try,” is pretty great.
For what are you most grateful?
Today. It is the most marvelous day that ever existed. It is the only chance we have to make a difference.
What is your favorite place you have travelled to?
Ko Pha-ngan. It is an island in the Gulf of Thailand.
What is your dream vacation?
I just spent a week in Bend, Oregon, and that was pretty dreamy. I got to see my best friend from high school, and his new wife, whom I introduced to him. I was the best man at their wedding. It was a great, dreamy place.