And then Sally Marbry got her hands on it. Now it’s a steamer trunk, a whimsical example of trompe-l’oeil painting and a perfect example of how art and beauty seem to follow the Redding resident wherever she goes.
The idea to transform downtown utility boxes into public art exhibits sprang from Viva Downtown’s Design Committee, which Marbry chairs. In addition to the steamer trunk, Marbry turned a box in front of Union Bank of California into a safe, and another box at Pine and Placer streets is now a capricious nod to Redding’s aspiring theatre district.
Marbry is an interior designer by vocation, but she is far from confined by walls, floors and ceilings. She’s a poet, a painter, a sculptor, a screenwriter, a teacher, a radio show host and whatever else her muse is apt to come up with at any given moment.
“My life as an artist is a moving train of endless possibilities,” she says. “Every endeavor is totally different, requiring a new set of rules each time. I love the freedom to hit the art world running, with enough enthusiasm to pull in others to share and have a great time in the process.”
Others are indeed drawn in, including John Truitt, Viva Downtown’s executive director. “I am always astounded by her talent and her intelligence,” he says. “She really is a brilliant artist. What makes Sally such a great leader of the Viva Downtown Design team is that she is adept and versed in so many different artistic disciplines.
“She’s not a one-trick pony; she doesn’t just paint or sculpt or limit herself to one thing. She really has mastered a wide range of art and technique. And this is what makes her so flexible, in that she can approach something by first considering the medium that will work best in any given place or situation.”
Marbry says that flexibility and openness undoubtedly stems from her years of transforming old office buildings into livable artist lofts, a trend she pioneered in downtown Los Angeles from 1980 to 1985 and later in Seattle.
“Living my young adult years in lofts shaped my unconventional take on the space needed for a home. Shaping spaces for art-making finally led me to being an interior designer professionally. I strive to introduce beauty to people and point out what the world is showing them to inspire happiness and contentment,” she says.
Marbry grew up in Seattle and earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the University of Washington before heading south to Laguna Beach, where she worked on her sculpting and exhibited works at the Pageant of the Masters and various galleries. After obtaining her master’s from Claremont Graduate University, she accepted teaching assignments at California State University, Los Angeles, and Pasadena City College.
When rent on her Los Angeles loft tripled, she returned to Seattle, transformed another loft and shifted her focus to interior design, earning a degree from the Seattle Art Institute and becoming a member of the Association Society of Interior Designers in the process.
“Being a sculptor made it easy to tackle materials, scale, and the physical challenges needed to convince others to change,” says Marbry. “My passion to present artistic solutions, I hope, turns people on to the joy of balance and color, and, possibly, the fine art of an indirect message.” Marbry’s own interior design changed in Seattle when she met and married Robert Marbry. In search of drier weather and to be closer to Robert Marbry’s brother, the couple relocated to Redding eight years ago. Robert Marbry operates Polar Bear Pools, a pool cleaning and repair business.
With local interior design commissions few and far between, Marbry began splitting her time between her Seattle-based clients and working to bring some beauty and color to downtown Redding. “It’s fun to teach and inspire others, and that’s where my Viva Downtown Design Committee work comes in,” Marbry says. “One day I’m a sign painter and the next, I’m sewing curtains for someone.”
Marbry is just as excited about helping others with their artistic visions, as fellow Viva Downtown design team member Ty Bos recently discovered. Bos, who operates Outlander Creative, Inc., an advertising agency, had an idea for a mural on the northern wall of the Glover Building on Placer Street.
His design, a subtle row of diminishing streetlight silhouettes, was sparked to life in large part thanks to Marbry, who got the green light from Ward Gandy, the building’s owner, and even persuaded Gandy to donate the paint.
“Sally is an amazing individual in the truest sense of the meaning,” Bos says. “She has traveled the world and landed, fortunately for us, here in Redding.” •