Marmot Art Space has been mainstay in Kendall Yards for almost a decade

“White Box gallery in the Kendall Yards part of West Central”

That’s how the Spokesman-Review described Marmot Art Space in March 2015 when including its grand opening show, featuring work from Spokane’s Melissa Cole, in a calendar of First Friday events.

Looking back now, it seems silly to have referred to the gallery, or Kendall Yards, for that matter, so plainly, given just how much Marmot and the neighborhood have grown over the last nine years.

Founded by Spokane native Marshall Peterson in 2015, Marmot Art Space has become a tiny but mighty home for works by local, national and international artists. The gallery will celebrate its ninth anniversary in March.

Though visual art has occupied his attention for most of his adult life, Peterson’s first artistic interest was music. He began playing drums when he was 9 and eventually performed in jazz, symphonic and marching band in middle and high school.

“Back in those days, I was first chair,” he said. “It was really important. I put in the work, put in the time in the seat.”

He continued performing while attending the University of Washington and worked as a professional musician after graduation. A move to Guadalajara 20 years ago connected Peterson’s love for music with a new love: photography.

“I was getting to know the culture and I wanted to be involved in the culture, so I went to all kinds of events and I started documenting them, started a little fanzine and started shooting bands,” he said.

After 10 years in Guadalajara, Peterson relocated once again, this time to Berlin to work with the Berlin International Film Festival. He shot behind the scenes festival footage for about a year. Despite the numerous connections Peterson made during his time in Berlin, several projects didn’t pan out.

“At some point, I was like, ‘Oh, man, I have to cut my losses,’ ” he said. “My mom goes ‘Have you ever thought about moving back to Spokane?’ ”

Once settled back home, Peterson began thinking of ways to keep busy while also making a difference. He started Spokane 50, which recognized “people moving and shaking in arts and culture” behind the scenes. Wanting to get involved in the growth of Kendall Yards, he also started PorchFest West Central.

Eventually, Peterson, who has shown his own work nearly 100 times, thought to bring a white cube gallery to Spokane.

“Every space matters in an arts ecosystem,” he said. “They all ideally coexist and feed off each other. Every space where you can exhibit art matters, but in any community that’s lucky enough to have one, the commercial gallery or the white cube gallery is the top of the mountain.”

Over the last nine years, Peterson has brought countless world renowned artists to the top of the mountain that is Marmot Art Space. He has showcased the late Ric Gendron, a close friend, as well as artists like painter/printmaker Keiko Hara, the late painter Alfredo Arreguin and sculptor Patti Warashina, who Peterson called “some of the most important artists in the history of the Pacific Northwest.”

All three have work in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and Spokane’s Warashina is one of two Pacific Northwest artists, along with glass artist Dale Chihuly, to receive the Smithsonian Visionary Award.

“These folks normally only show at museums and it’s just insane that I’ve got them at Marmot,” Peterson said. “I don’t know if you’ve ever dated up, but I’m dating way, way, way up at Marmot. It’s worth mentioning that it’s just a miracle that I got them even to show once, and a series of subsequent miracles that they choose to keep showing with me year after year.”

Peterson’s above and beyond behind-the-scenes work likely endears him to the artists. He frequently travels around the Pacific Northwest to connect artists with art buyers, but he doesn’t hesitate to go the extra mile – literally. Peterson drove to the Smithsonian to hand-deliver his self-published book about Gendron, and he has also driven a piece of art to Houston, Texas, to ensure its arrival before the holidays.

Peterson can’t say much, but new projects are in motion because of those trips.

Peterson is grateful for the artists who have trusted him with their work, of course, but he’s also grateful for everyone who has supported the gallery over the years.

“There’s enough people in Spokane that understand what Marmot is doing and are willing to put their thoughts into concrete action,” he said. “The concept of paying it forward. My January folks that put their thoughts into concrete action pay for my February show. My February show people pay for my March show. That’s the way it’s worked.”

Maintaining an art gallery for nearly a decade requires a lot of work, a lot of time in the seat, as Peterson likes to say, but he appreciates having the opportunity to earn the trust of his artists and art buyers every day.

“If you want to be the happiest, start making it about other people and how you can serve other people,” he said. “Then there’s this tendency to pull it back ‘What about this cost? What about that cost?’ You’ve got to push yourself back out there. Selfishly, if you want to be happy, work on serving others and thinking about others, making it about others, and you’ll get so much back. Think about others, serve others and you’re going to be happy.”

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