Bringing art to the community | Nicole Martin

By Tim Hauserman · 


Kindred is a nonprofit in Truckee providing art classes to local youth started by Nicole Ashton Martin, pictured here with a group of her students · 

The first thing that you notice when you speak to Nicole Ashton Martin is that she considers art and creativity as an enormous tent that contains every sort of creative endeavor you can imagine.

Martin is the creative director for the Kindred Arts and Folk Institute in Truckee, a nonprofit that offers art classes to the community.

“All human beings are inherently creative; even to think or to speak means to create something from nothing. In art, we concentrate this inherent creative process in order to create new meaning and new culture,” Martin says. “In the creation of new social realities, we apply creativity to the medium of society itself. When individuals are given the opportunity to express themselves in a safe environment where all thoughts are embraced, conceptual thoughts are allowed to come full circle giving individuals and all that surround them another prospective on themselves and the community.

“Art doesn’t have to be one way,” Martin says. “Kindred is a catalyst for all ages to come together and discover all we are capable of. Kindred offers a wide variety of sessions for all ages using multiple mediums so students are able to experience many different avenues and to create new ones together.”

Kindred offers students the opportunity to express their own creativity · 

Students at the Kindred Art and Folk Institute can learn the correct way to do traditional art such as woodworking, glass blowing, relief painting, carving and pottery. While Kindred teaches the basics, it then bring students to artistic places that they might never had considered, Martin says. Students have made glow-in-the-dark stump stools, crystal pendants with bullet shell casings, books using traditional bookmaking techniques and custom walking sticks. Not to mention the African thumb pianos, flower essence and aromatherapies, silk scarf painting, wine bottle hummingbird feeders, metal flowers and bottle bell wind chimes.

Students have even used reclaimed wood to create interpretive signs about indigenous animals that are being placed on hiking trails as part of the Shane McConkey Foundation’s Eco Challenge. The list of possibilities has only been limited by the imagination of the students and their instructors.

“Any medium you can think of, we’ve done it. The kids are so proud when they finish a project. The parents are surprised by what they make,” Martin said.

Students in a Kindred workshop created a driftwood fish · 

Martin says that she feels that art is not just a painting on the wall, but an avenue to creative expression. In addition, one of the goals of Kindred is to use lost and sustainable products as part of the creative process, and instill an appreciation for the natural environment with the students.

It has been said that the way to learn something is to teach it. Kindred is taking that philosophy to heart with the Kindred Mentors program. Students between the ages of 11 and 14 apply to become a mentor. They then agree to one day a week helping in the studio or becoming Kindred ambassadors at community events. In return, they receive 50 percent off the fee for classes and experience the learning benefits of teaching.

Lifetime love of art
While ostensibly Kindred started when Martin sat down and wrote a mission statement in 2009, it started much earlier in her creative and artistic mind.

Martin grew up in Kansas City and began studying art in high school at the Art Institute of Boston. Then she spent her college years at the California Institute of the Arts, where she received a bachelor of arts in fine art and graphic design and a masters in marketing. She was an instructor for Inner City Arts, where she developed an interest in teaching children, with the goal of “helping them find their path and realize how much they are capable of,” Martin said.

After college, Martin spent a number of years working in the corporate world in advertising and marketing, as well as for a television station in Reno. When the economy tanked in 2009 she moved to Tahoe, where she had family in Incline and fond memories of the times she had spent here. She worked for the Sierra Arts Foundation and did marketing for Tahoe Forest Hospital, but she says that she didn’t feel complete.

“I wasn’t really happy and fulfilled at what I was doing without my creative outlet, I was feeling empty. My son was in first grade. I was already doing a ton of stuff with kids at schools. It clicked that I should just start Kindred. Truckee felt like the right place to call home.”

Kindred’s classes and workshops are held year round with summer sessions under way now for students between the ages of 5 and 16. The nonprofit is seeking financial assistance and support from businesses and private individuals for running the program and providing scholarships.


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