Kinga Martin: Mem Housekeeper, Succesful Artist, New Citizen


Credit: Kinga Martin

Mem West girls are familiar with the housekeeper with the friendly face and the thick accent, but most are unaware of her amazing skills as an artist.

Kinga Martin is a 38-year-old immigrant from Poland who has worked at Williston for six years, both at the Stubop (campus snack bar) and in Mem West as a housekeeper.

However, Martin, is also a self-taught artist who specializes in children’s illustration and whimsical botanical works depicting birds, flowers, and other aspects of nature.

Martin was exposed to the beauty of art at a very young age. Her father studied at an art school in Krakow, Poland, the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts. He specialized in oil paintings and worked on art in old churches. Martin quickly picked up this love for art and it did not go unnoticed by those around her.

“In my childhood, my teachers noticed that I had a talent for drawing and they encouraged me to follow the talent and go study art,” Kinga told The Willistonian. “But, at the time, it was strongly believed that art wasn’t a career that would provide one a steady living, so I decided to study nutrition at a dietitian school in Poland.”

After school, Martin migrated to Noci, Italy, in 2000 and began working as a caretaker for people who suffered from Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. This didn’t leave her with lots of time for her extracurricular passion.

“Italy was my second exposure to art, since the country is like the center of Europe in terms of the beautiful art and the museums,” Martin said. “I just loved to look at the art and enjoy it but due to my work, I was very busy, so I never had time to draw and focus on my talent.”

Martin said her career in art didn’t really start until she came to Easthampton, when a friend gifted her with watercolors, “and she said to me, ‘You’ve got to do something with it,’ so I did,” Martin remarked.

She started drawing a few portraits for her friends and eventually, opened a store on Etsy. She sold some of her portraits on the online store, until she decided to experiment with ink and watercolors.

“I wanted to do something different, something that not many people draw,” she said. “So, I painted a picture of a blue heron and I posted it on Facebook and I had a huge response to it.” Martin, with a huge smile on her face, said, “Many people told me that it was beautiful, and they wanted to buy it and I realized that many people liked it. So, I decided to stay with that style of art because that’s what people wanted.”

Last year, Martin’s art career reached a pivotal point when she was approached by Heather Salazar, professor of philosophy at Western New England University, and was asked to illustrate the drawings for Salazar’s upcoming children’s book.

“I did a total of 27 illustrations and she [Salazar] put the book together on her own,” Martin explained. “The book is called “Yama Mimi” and it’s Japanese for ‘Mountain Ears.'”

“The main goal in the book is to help children be encouraged in life and improve their self-esteem through the story of a black Siamese cat who wasn’t an ordinary beautiful animal but a little skinny cat that didn’t fit in with the others,” Martin explained.

Martin also disclosed that she is currently working on another project, which she cannot talk about due to her contract.

Despite her full-time job at Williston, Martin doesn’t find it hard to make time for her art work.

“I spend my afternoons each day drawing and painting when I’m working on a project so about three to four hours each day. I also spend at least one full day every weekend,” Martin commented.

Martin said an average project takes about six months, but “any other painting is usually spontaneous, and I can complete it within two days because I want to see the result.”

Martin’s top two inspirations for her art work are Lev “Leo” Kaplan and Barry Moser. Kaplan is a Ukrainian-born children’s illustrator currently living in Stuttgart, Germany, who works with “extremely detailed watercolor and pencil illustrations.” She is inspired by his attention to detail and clarity.

Moser is a printmaker and illustrator from Chattanooga, Tennessee, who currently lives in western Massachusetts. Martin sees him as an inspiration because he works a lot with inks.

In addition to her thriving career, Martin has something else to celebrate.

On April 18, Martin, along with 631 other people, took an oath ceremony in the Mechanic’s Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts, officially making her a United States citizen.

Martin, who has worked in the US since 2006, said it has been a very complex process.

“When you apply for citizenship, it can take anywhere from seven months to a year [to be approved for citizenship] with your background check and whether or not you pass the citizenship test, which requires you to read, write and answer six of 10 questions correctly in an interview,” she explained. Questions focus on US History and politics.

Despite the long and intricate process, Martin is happy to be an American citizen.

“As a US citizen, now I can enjoy the full constitutional rights that citizenship grants to everyone, such as voting during elections, serving jury duty, and many others,” Martin said, proudly.

Overall, Martin says that she is very grateful to be in a caring and diverse community like Williston.

“I am very fortunate to work at Williston and to have the opportunity to meet wonderful people and students; it’s a very cool international experience because it’s a little bit of everything,” she commented.

“It’s amazing to see students come from different parts of the world and get along like one big family,” she said.