From a distance, they resemble the type of sandwich boards you might see advertising the daily specials outside of a café. Get a little closer, and you’ll see they’re adorned with black-and-white portraits, designed to catch your attention as you’re walking down the street.
The pieces are part of a public art series called Spokane 50, and it’s been devised by photographer Marshall Peterson to highlight and celebrate those responsible for keeping the engine of Spokane’s art scene up and running.
Peterson has been moving the exhibition, which consists of several stand-up displays, around downtown. Tonight he’ll have it set up at Avista Stadium for the Spokane Indians game.
“It’s basically a massive thank-you letter to the people who are making Spokane rock,” Peterson said. He’s been asking friends and acquaintances to nominate those they believe are worthy of inclusion – writers, musicians, promoters and other local figures who are changing Spokane’s artistic climate for the better. Peterson has already photographed his first 10 nominees; by the end of the project, he hopes to have showcased 50 individuals.
Peterson, a Spokane native, moved away after high school, and he’s lived and worked in such varied locations as Berlin and Guadalajara, Mexico. He moved back to Spokane less than a year ago and was surprised to find an art culture had developed in his absence – “a Renaissance,” as he calls it.
“About 15 years ago, you could shoot a cannon down Main Street and not hit anybody,” he said. “But there’s been a lot of growth in the arts, and I want people to take pride in Spokane.”
He points to events such as First Friday and Terrain, which were established within the past few years. “That stuff doesn’t just happen,” Peterson said. “People make it happen.”
In order for the scene to continue growing and thriving, Peterson says that the community needs to support itself from within. He likens it to relay racers passing a baton: “There always needs to be forward momentum,” he said. “We’re all motivating each other all the time.”
Much like the art scene itself, Peterson envisions his project evolving beyond the boundaries he’s set for himself. “S50 could turn into S100 or S150 – who knows?” Peterson said. “This is chapter one. The book has just begun.”