Edition 44— Sarah Martin
A Place to Belong
Sarah Martin left Artists For Humanity after her senior year of high school in 2012, and has been on the move–physically and professionally–ever since. When I speak with her via video call, she rings in from her current home in Berlin, Germany, though she is slated to start traveling again in the next few months. Starting in November, Martin will be visiting different cities around the United States for work, and she couldn’t be more thrilled to do so. This fall, along with her band Meagre Martin, she will be joining renowned indie rock band Alt-J on their ten-year-anniversary tour across the country. Her journey to this point, however, has been anything but linear.
Raised in the Roslindale neighborhood of Boston, Martin attended a public charter school in the suburb of Norwell. Living a forty minute drive from her school, which was predominantly white, she felt out of place as a mixed race kid from the city. While she was supported academically–describing herself as a good student guided by encouraging teachers–she struggled to meet other students from a similar background, with similar interests.
Having been homeschooled for much of her education before freshman year, Martin’s mother had always sought out different programs for her to meet new people and learn new skills. Upon discovering AFH, her mother encouraged her to apply, after which she was quickly hired.
“The opportunity to make art was the leading thing,” Martin replies when I ask her what initially attracted her to the prospect of working at AFH, “but then getting paid for it was interesting.” At fourteen, Martin had never had a job before, and was excited about the opportunity to be compensated for expressing her creativity.
Starting off in the Painting Studio, Martin enjoyed herself, befriending the other teens alongside her brother, who had also joined AFH. Listing name after name, she recalls all the welcoming people she met during her time at the organization — many of whom she and her family remain close with today. “I would come to AFH, and people would be happy to see me,” she smiles, “they wanted me around.” Used to feeling like an outcast at her school, AFH’s diverse, creative environment provided Martin with a reminder that she could form meaningful friendships with people like herself.
“To have a place that not only supports you emotionally, but financially, that’s such a crazy thing.”
After a few weeks in the Painting Studio, however, Martin’s creative curiosity began to wander. Always creating paintings with bold, solid, clean-lined forms, she realized that her ideas might be put to better use in the Graphic Design Studio, where she chose to move and remain for the rest of her time at AFH. Describing an atmosphere of tough love in the Studio, Martin was driven by the challenging projects she was assigned, and firm guidance she received in completing them. “I remember the Graphic Design Studio being so fun…brutal at times,” she laughs, “but I loved it.”
In the Graphic Design Studio, Martin helped with many client projects, all the while learning different visual arts’ principles, as well as software like Adobe Photoshop and InDesign. When I ask her about her proudest moment at AFH, however, she does not mention a product created for a client, nor a commissioned piece. Instead, she tells me about the very end of her time as a teen at AFH, when the organization offered her the position of assistant mentor. Having a deep appreciation for the support her mentors had provided her over the years, Martin was flattered, and chose to accept the part-time position.
After graduating from high school, Martin attended UMass Lowell, continuing to commute to AFH a few days a week in her assistant mentor position. As her freshman year came to a close, however, she began to question her academic future. Unhappy at her school, she applied to Berklee College, interested in pursuing her growing passion for music. Upon being waitlisted, Martin made the decision to drop out of college along with her boyfriend, another student she had met at UMass.
Both eager to travel, the pair moved to the Bay Area in California, spending some time working on a bed and breakfast yacht in a local marina in exchange for room and board. Though they enjoyed the new experience–exploring the city, living on a boat in San Francisco–they were also feeling a bit homesick, and seeking more stability. After moving back to Boston and saving some money, the two decided to then move to New York City for two years. Working in restaurants during the day, Martin spent her nights practicing, playing, and recording music–slowly familiarizing herself with the local scene. Not to be tied down to one place for too long, Martin and her boyfriend made their biggest move to date after the 2016 presidential election. Pledging to move to Philadelphia if Bernie Sanders won, and out of the country if he lost, the two decided to head to Berlin, Germany, where they have lived for the past five years.
Since arriving in Berlin, Martin has held a few jobs. As she prepares for her upcoming tour, she is splitting her time between a managerial position at a local indie music bar, and working with a promoter, who she helps with coordinating musicians behind the scenes and local shows. While she feels very supported by the scene in Berlin, and enjoys seeing different sides of the music world, she is eager to get out and start sharing her own work with others.
Even now, Martin continues to use the technical skills she learned in AFH’s Graphic Design Studio. “It’s given me a lot of autonomy in my other creative fields,” she explains, referencing her ability to create mockups for vinyl releases, make edits to graphics, and design her own posters, “I don’t have to go out and hire someone, because I can just do it myself.”
Listening to Martin reflect on her time at AFH, however, she seems most appreciative of what she took away from the experience in a more emotional sense. Looking back on the differences between her high school and AFH, she is still incredibly grateful for the feeling of community and belonging the organization provided. “It gave me confidence in myself,” she shares, “that was my saving grace for sure.” As a teen, it might have been difficult for Martin to picture where she is now–living in Berlin, gearing up for a tour across the United States with acclaimed indie rock group Alt-J. While she has come a long way from her first days in the Painting Studio, it is clear she still holds a place in her heart for the self-discovery she experienced in the supportive community at AFH.
Written by Eliza Whalen.
To learn more about Sarah Martin, visit @meagremartin on Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube. To listen to her music, visit “Meagre Martin” on Spotify.