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Artist Joyce Martin prepares to leave Bemidji; public invited to goodbye reception

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BEMIDJI – Bemidji artists and community members will have a chance to say goodbye to Joyce Martin during the 2-5 p.m. reception Friday in her honor at Gallery North.

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Martin, a longtime member of the Northern Artists Association, is moving to be near her daughters in Lincoln, Neb.

As young mother and public health service nurse, Martin, then known as Joyce Short, was left a widow when her commercial fisherman husband died.

“We left Sitka (Alaska) in a six-seat airplane: myself, two little girls, our dog and as much of our belongings that would fit,” Martin said. “We moved to Bemidji in 1969 when I married Ivan Martin, the father of my friend Barbara, when he retired to this area. I worked as a nurse for the county health system starting in 1970.”

Martin always liked to draw and sketch, but being a busy wife and mother as well as a nurse, she only had Sundays to ply her talents. It was a 1980 present from her daughters – a set of acrylic paints and a community education class with Maureen O’Brien – that successfully launched Martin into the Bemidji arts community.

“Maureen talked me into joining the Northern Artists Association chapter that was started in 1974 in Bemidji by some well-known artists in the area: Claudine Madison, Betty Saur and Wanda Odegard,” Martin said. “But by 1985, I became very deaf and that ended my nursing career, and that was when I joined the NAA.”

After a forced retirement in her 50s, Martin began to paint in earnest by taking as many classes as she could through community education, seminars and classes by visiting artists, some from the NAA, and going from one day a week of practicing to painting every day.

“Back around 1987, several artists would meet at Dee Saltee’s house to paint, including Pam Nelson and Betty Saur, and they were kind enough to ask me to join them,” Martin said. “They were accomplished watercolor artists and I fell in love with watercolor painting. It is challenging to be sure but with a little kit of materials: brushes, paints, water and paper, one can go anywhere and paint.”

The group outgrew Saltee’s house and by 1994, Martin went on a mission to find a place where the larger group could meet each Monday to paint. She was an auxiliary member of the Eagles Club and asked them if they would host a weekly artists’ retreat from approximately 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The club agreed with the stipulation that the group would buy lunches and snacks.

“Of all the things I have done, I would say that this is the one that I am most proud of,” Martin said. “The weekly meeting is open to the public but anyone who comes more than a few times will be asked to join the Northern Artists Association which is the sponsor of this group. The dues are $10 a year.”

The weekly meeting includes artists who paint, sketch, carve, knit and other artistic or creative endeavors. Martin said it is an opportunity to come together, learn from each other and socialize even when no longer involved in the creative process. Members are all ages, ranging from a college student to nonagenarian Erma Stelter.

Another effort that Martin was asked to join was the founding of Gallery North by Pam Nelson, Wanda Odegard, Betty Saur and Claudine Madison, among others, in 1989.

The first few years were spent at the current Headwaters Science Center site and then other locations around town but a permanent year-round home was established in 2001 in the Ink Spot Building at the foot of the Irving Street Bridge.

Gallery North is a nonprofit cooperative art gallery that is under the sponsorship of the Northern Artists Association. The members staff the gallery, which provides a venue for the sale of their work and offers a series of workshops. The gallery also participates in the First Friday receptions with guest artists and member installations.

When Martin makes her move to Lincoln, Neb., during the first weekend in May, all of her work will be gone from Gallery North. She is hoping to make connections there with an artist guild.

She said her personal mission is promoting emerging artists, “That’s how you get good, by practicing and learning from others.”

“Art has enriched my life in ways too numerous to count,” Martin said, “but foremost in the friendships formed and in satisfying the need to create.”

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