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Volume 24, Number 4 — April 2017

Region loses "arts hero'

 James C.
James C. "Jim" Martin

January 27, 2016

Tennessee lost an arts hero and a dear friend when James C. "Jim" Martin passed away. He made a tremendous difference for the arts in Northeast Tennessee, impacting the lives of thousands of students and the region.

Over the years, Martin made many gifts to regional arts organizations in memory of his late wife, Mary B. Martin, but his largest gift led to the creation of East Tennessee State University's Mary B. Martin School of the Arts. The school brings all the arts at ETSU together under one umbrella providing a wide range of arts activities including high-caliber performing arts events, exhibitions and workshops.

In the fall of 2012, Martin provided another donation to the university, a gift that serves as a catalyst for ETSU's proposed arts classroom building and performing arts center.

As Martin said, "I have been slowly trying to weave a tapestry of local art-oriented institutions that can cooperate and begin to form an influential presence in our area."

He made several large multi-year donations to the Symphony of the Mountains and to the International Storytelling Center which is named after his late-wife Mary. There is scarcely an arts organization in the region that didn't benefit from his philanthropy.

In 2013, he was presented with a Governor's Arts Award by Gov. Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam in the Arts Leadership category. He and his late wife have also been honored by the Tennessee Board of Regents, ETSU's governing body, with the 2013 Regents' Award and the 2010 Chancellor's Award.

With his deep generosity and commitment to the arts, he has left Tennessee a true legacy that will continue to positively affect the Northeast region for generations to come.