by Alyssa Brooks
Involving themselves in projects to make the city a more vibrant place, a group of influential Spokane residents have spawned growth in the city’s arts and culture scene over the last decade, Spokane Fifty creator Marshall E. Peterson, Jr. said. The Spokane Fifty, a series of 50 profiles highlighting Spokane residents, has begun with the first 10 profiles: the S10.
Peterson created the Spokane Fifty to thank many of the individuals who have enriched Spokane, he said, since he has been out of town for close to 10 years. Gonzaga University hosted the exhibit of profiles last week, and Eastern Washington University will host it sometime in October.
The community nominates each participant, and Peterson makes the final decision on who to include.
“If you talk to some people that really know Spokane — I mean these are the movers and the shakers,” Peterson said. “They’re the people that are getting things done.”
Peterson posted each profile on a weatherproof A-frame.
“I’m always working with cutting edge materials,” Peterson said. “You can literally print on plastic, and it’s indestructible, and that’s really what changes the game. When it’s indestructible you can take it anywhere, and you can show it anywhere.”
Each A-frame profile has a portrait, a quote and a description of the participant’s largest contributions to the city. Three or four small photos line the bottom of the board, capturing each participant’s personality and what matters most to that person.
One of these profiles features Whitworth assistant professor of theatre, Brooke Kiener.
“A number of years ago, I taught a class here on campus called community-Based Theater,” Kiener said. “The students and I undertook the test of creating a community-based theater piece about the topic of police brutality and injustice within the justice system.”
During the investigation, Kiener was able to use her area of expertise — theatre — to learn more about an issue about which she was concerned about as a Spokane resident. The group was then able to present what they had found to the community through a dramatic performance.
Kiener’s story offers one example of the kinds of projects in which Spokane Fifty participants are involved.
Participants Ted S. McGregor, Jr. and Verne Windham are active in Spokane media. McGregor founded, publishes and works as editor-in-chief of The Inlander, a weekly newspaper, and Windham serves as the voice of KPBX, Spokane public radio. Windham has also served as the conductor of the Spokane Youth Orchestra for 15 years.
Taylor Weech, another participant, co-founded the Youth Sustainability Council as well as the Young Spokanites Arts Extravaganza. After recognizing the need for young artists to contribute to the shaping of Spokane, Weech became a part of many youth-oriented projects, including an open art show for artists under 25 years old, according to the Spokane Fifty website.
“Spokane’s doing really well in the arts industry,” Peterson’s niece Jesica Calkins said. Peterson consulted Calkins upon his return to Spokane, telling her that it would be nice to get a younger person’s input, Calkins said.
“It’s really cool to see the people who started that drive,” Calkins said. “It’s really neat that those people are finally getting some kind of exposure.”
Recognition for artistic achievement does not always happen right away. Because that is something that both Kiener and Peterson know well, they both said they encourage young artists to be active, purpose-driven and self-confident.
“You really have to be strong and prepare for the long haul,” Peterson said. “It takes awhile to develop things. It takes more than a year or two or three years. Keep wishing and pushing and pushing. Set your goals, define them, figure out how you’re going to get there.”
Young artists should know that it takes stamina in order to continue in the industry, Peterson said. In the end, he said it pays to be business-minded and goal-driven.
“Make stuff. Keep making stuff. Take big risks. Learn from your failures, and keep making stuff,” Kiener said. “Your dreams are important, and your visions are valuable. The skills that you bring this community are priceless. Don’t hide them. Don’t feel ashamed of them. Don’t feel like what you offer the world isn’t important. It is; it’s vital. This community needs you. It will sometimes feel like a lot of giving without compensation. Insist on your value. Insist on what you think the work is worth.”
Contact Alyssa Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org