Alumnus creates portraits of inspiring Spokane locals

Marshall Peterson has taken his sandwich boards around many places in the Inland Northwest, and he recently returned to his alma mater and showcased them outside of the PUB.

But what he is doing with these A-frames is very different than simply advertising goods.

Peterson, who earned his teaching certificate from EWU in 1995, is undergoing a project called Spokane Fifty, a multi-year effort designed to celebrate the people who are most involved in expanding the creative culture in the Spokane area.

“The idea behind the project is to support people who are doing awesome stuff in culture, music and the arts, not necessarily the artists themselves,” Peterson said.

The sandwich boards currently feature photographed portraits of 10 of these people in black and white, along with descriptions of their contributions to the area. This is the first manifestation of the project, which Peterson believes may take up to five years to complete and will highlight 50 people.

Some of the people featured in the first phase include The Inlander founder Ted S. McGregor Jr., local arts promoter Patrick Kendrick and The Spovangelist founder Mariah McKay.

Alayna Becker, who recently took over as editor-in-chief of local culture blog The Spovangelist, commended the work done thus far by Peterson.

“Spokane Fifty does an excellent job of illuminating people that are working hard for the cultural betterment of Spokane and is, on its own, a great art display,” Becker said.

But there is much more to this project than the sandwich boards. Spokane Fifty also recently staged private events at River City Brewing in downtown Spokane where those chosen for portraits talked about the past, present and future of the project. Events in the future will be open to the public.

Dean Davis, a long-time photographer in Spokane, acknowledged that the area is a smaller artistic market, but pointed out there are still many talented artists around, and he supports Peterson’s effort to bring them more prominence.

“I think it’s admirable that he’s trying to shine the spotlight on people who are making a difference in the arts community,” Davis said.

Peterson hopes to return to EWU in the near future and would like to spend time with various academic departments to talk about his work and how art and culture impact the area.

He believes people from Eastern will be chosen for the next wave of the project. The most important thing to him, right now, is that people check out Spokane Fifty and do what they can to become involved. Nominations are still open, and students can go to for more information.

“When you tell the city what’s going on in the city, you’re supporting the city,” Peterson said.