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Meet Marly. Executive Director @ the Perkinson Center

Marly joined the Perkinson Center as the Executive Director in October 2020 but has been volunteering with the Chesterfield Cultural Arts Foundation on-and-off since its inception. She's lovable, quirky, and inspires the Perkinson team to shine their lights. Enjoy getting to know her a bit more today.


Tell us about yourself.

I’m a dreamer, a visionary, and a strategist who believes that art is the answer to why communities thrive. As a mom of three busy boys there is not a moment that we don’t slow down to enjoy the brilliant colors of a sunset, a mural on a side road, or an optimistic viewpoint of someone new (this is an art too!).


Having grown up in Chester through Curtis, Chester Middle, and Thomas Dale, I always felt torn between which artform to choose—I wanted to sing, and perform, and play instruments, and make visual art. Unfortunately, we were limited to one elective, so I picked cello and played for seven years, then joined various theatre clubs and art camps as my family could afford.


I chose to study public relations at Virginia Commonwealth University because I felt it would give me the opportunity to be formally trained in communications (another art form I love). After graduating I moved to Los Angeles for a few years and worked in the music and fashion industries. When I returned to Virginia after the 2008 recession, I shifted gears into nonprofit work where I felt I could use my skills for good.


I worked my way into senior leadership at Virginia Blood Services then went on to consult other local and national nonprofits on leadership, presentations, and stress management.

Between all of this I squeezed in an MBA from VCU, a trip to India to learn how to teach meditation, three children, and a few trips to exotic places around the world.



What’s your background in the arts?

Art has always been a part of my life. I used to draw to escape when I was younger, I took up photography in college and went on to travel through Europe, Asia, Central & South America, and Africa capturing the beautiful colors across the various cultures.

When I look back on places I have lived and traveled to, it’s always the art that stays with me and how it shapes the cultures I love. I love Chester and I want our community to feel the joy I have felt when experiencing art.


Betty Matthews inspired me nearly 20 years ago to get involved in marketing, fundraising, and strategic planning for what is now the Perkinson Center today. Her vision and passion sparked something in me that is still alive today.


To begin building a bigger art presence in our community, I formed a committee on the Chester Community Association in 2019 to create spaces or pop up galleries for artists to show their work at area businesses. We were getting a good rhythm going until COVID shut us down in early 2020. It is my hope and commitment that we will reinvigorate this mission when we reopen again.



What excites you about working for the Perkinson Center?

The endless opportunities for all we are offering here. We have a state-of-the-art venue for local talent, regional groups on tour, national performers, and more. I get excited thinking about couples making their vows here, about local companies hosting corporate retreats to tap into their creativity, and I especially get excited about ALL of the artists we are partnering with to provide workshops and classes and to show in the Baxter & Elaine Perkinson Gallery. Chesterfield has never seen anything like this and it is an honor to open our doors with so much variety and unique offerings.



What hopes and dreams do you have for the Perkinson Center?

That we are the leader of intimate experiences with the arts and that we accomplish this through welcoming inclusivity no matter your age, race, gender identity, or experience. This is a safe and accommodating space where anyone and everyone can explore culture, creativity, and curiosity.



How will the Perkinson Center positively impact Chesterfield and the surrounding areas?

Art is healing. 2020 has proven the need for healing more than ever. To have an art center here in Chesterfield that offers classes, performances, and art from local talent to national artists will offer a portal to that much-needed healing. When children and adults can explore the various mediums we have here, that’s where the magic begins. I look forward to witnessing these experiences at the Perkinson Center!



Favorite show:

Wicked was the first Broadway show I experienced that had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I saw it three times when I lived in Los Angeles at the Pantages Theatre and once at the Landmark (now Altria) Theater. I’m also a HUGE Cirque Du Soleil fan and have followed various shows around the country, my favorite being a toss up between Corteo and the Beatles Love in Vegas.



Favorite artist:

This is like asking me to pick a favorite color—it changes often and depends on the mood. I was deeply compelled by Salvador Dali when I was quite young. Surrealism is still my favorite. Now I tend to connect more to the philosophy of an artist alongside the surrealism style, for example Vajra with his Allegory of the Cave painting who portrays the moment a person who has lived their entire life in the shadows of a cave, makes the journey toward the light and is blinded in that moment of truth. His paintings are mind-bending for me because they look like they were created by a computer with the detail and wild and other-worldly expression, but he paints hand-to-canvas from his imagination.


Something fun(ny) to know about you:

I’m known to break out in song for anyone who is playing an instrument, usually making up the words as I go. I also love making up songs with my children—this is joy-fuel for me!



Favorite space at the Perkinson Center?

Of all the beautiful, breath-taking spaces around the entire center, my favorite space is the Betty Matthews Lobby. I picked this room because everyone who enters here experiences emotional overwhelm that we could have something so amazing right here in Chesterfield. I love this room because it is the first place everyone experiences before they head into the Jimmy Dean Theater, or the Baxter and Elaine Perkinson Gallery, or for a class in the education center or classroom. It is the place where everyone will eagerly await picking up their tickets for the evening show or the place where they will grab a glass of wine and a refreshment while they mingle during intermission. I get emotional myself when I think of all the feelings that will be had just in this space alone.

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