Blah to beautiful: Art student helps transform local facility, earning volunteer award
When Kimberly Martiny was asked to paint a mural for a local mental health facility, she happily agreed — at first.
But after visiting the Innovative Services Diversion Facility, a temporary home for recovering individuals with mental health issues, Martiny decided a mural wasn’t enough. So the UW-Green Bay Art Education student launched a massive volunteer effort, mobilizing a dozen fellow artists from the community to create and donate works. In the end, they produced nearly 90 paintings that now hang at the Diversion Facility, transforming the once-drab walls into beautiful spaces.
“It was a huge impact,” Martiny said, “just the color on the walls — when you looked down the hallway, it wasn’t just doors and white walls. It was color, all the way down, which — it makes it so much better.”
The experience was intrinsically rewarding, Martiny said, but she never anticipated she’d receive an actual accolade for her work. So it was a happy surprise when UW-Green Bay Associate Prof. Ryan Martin, vice president of NAMI Brown County, told her she’d be receiving the organization’s Community Impact Award. The Brown County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness doesn’t regularly give the award, Martin said, but felt it was appropriate given Martiny’s dedication to the large-scale effort. She received the honor at NAMI’s spring banquet in April.
“I can’t adequately describe how much energy, thoughtfulness and professionalism Kimberly brought to this project,” said Martin, who’d originally approached Martiny about the Diversion mural. “I asked her to take this on because I knew she would do it well — but she surpassed even my lofty expectations.”
Martiny called on UW-Green Bay students and recent grads to help her coordinate the 2011 project, which was funded entirely by NAMI. She and the volunteers met with Martin ahead of time to talk about appropriate subject matter and keeping the paintings light and uplifting for the Diversion residents. Martiny produced about 10 paintings herself, relying on her enthusiastic crew of volunteers to create the rest.
“All the artists that came together had a very wide spectrum of talents and abilities, and all of the paintings turned out absolutely gorgeous,” Martiny said. “We had some students that were Studio Art majors, some that were emphasizing in painting. And then we also had some that had no history of art making, and just kind of said ‘let’s give it a try and see what we come up with.’ ”
Martiny herself has an interesting educational background, having graduated from UW-Green Bay with a Psychology degree in 2010. She’d initially planned to go to graduate school for Art Therapy and Counseling, but time spent working with at-risk high school students changed her mind. Martiny took summer 2010 off from school and came back to UW-Green Bay that fall, majoring in Studio Art and minoring in Education in pursuit of her Art Education license. She plans to student teach next spring and graduate in May 2013.
In her NAMI award acceptance speech, Martiny reflected on the connection between psychological well being and art, noting its healing power as both aesthetic element and outlet for self-expression.
“I have always believed that the arts and psychology are an excellent match for one another,” she said, “and that they can work together, and meet for the wellness of all — not just those that are sick, but in anybody. This was an excellent project for the artists that worked with us, and for the community, to make something really beautiful happen.”
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