After more than 35 years of teaching, beloved Youth in Arts mentor artist Marty Meade is retiring.
The 81-year-old West Marin artist is looking forward to spending more time at home with her husband and doing her own art. Although she learned how to make videos for Youth in Arts when the coronavirus pandemic hit, online teaching is not for her.
“I need the connection with people,” she said.
For more than 35 years, Marty has worked with young people who have experienced trauma, from violent home situations to substance abuse.
“Most of these kids are unlikeable, and others so depressed that you just try to get a smile,” she said affectionately. “They are angry and hurt. I love trying to soften them and get their trust.”
Marty became a certified art therapist in 1988. She worked in various programs and schools in Marin throughout the years, usually with the same group of young people. For the past several years she has worked at Compass Academy in Novato. The Marin County Office of Education program is an alternative K-12 school for young people experiencing mental health or emotional challenges.
Years ago, Marty learned that giving a typical art lesson wouldn’t work. Instead, she brought three projects to choose from to hold their attention. Typically she worked with eight students at a time. The tools varied, from marbling paper to painting, but always offered young artists a chance to experiment and explore.
While making art, discussions revealed deep truths about her students that they otherwise might not share. In turn, she shared stories from her own life, including how she and other family members faced prejudice for their Native American and Mexican ancestry.
“It’s not the stuff you hang on the walls,’’ she said. “It’s the connections with the kids.”
One thing she won’t miss is dealing with the discomfort of administrators and clinical staff when students used strong language in their art. That potency was powerful and authentic, Marty said, often containing clues about what students were experiencing in their lives.
“You have to be watching all the time,” she said. “I see all sorts of magical things come up.”
Marty will keep painting and making glass art. As covid restrictions allow, she will continue teaching watercolor at the San Geronimo Community Center through the College of Marin. She also teaches glass art to a small group at her home.
Marty will also continue her work as a member of the Board of Directors with In SPIRIT. She helped the late Aniece Taylor found the nonprofit 35 years ago to help people who are quadriplegic remain at home.