A! Magazine for the Arts

James and Mary Martin

James and Mary Martin

Funding for the Martin Center: James & Mary Martin

October 27, 2020

East Tennessee State University’s new James C. and Mary B. Martin Center was funded by Johnson City, the university, the community and regional organizations.

The budget for the building was $52 million, and the university was required to raise $10 million of that from the community. One member of the community, James C. Martin, was so generous that the building is named for him and his wife, Mary.

Martin and his wife, Mary, both deceased, were significant patrons of the arts. The Martins were both chemists and had long careers at Eastman Chemical. Both held patents in the polymer field, and Mary invested those proceeds. Before her death, she asked her husband to use funds from those investments to support the arts in the region. Jim took her words to heart, and many organizations have benefited from her wishes – particularly the Martin Center.

Anita DeAngelis, director of the Martin Center, remembers, “In 2008, Mr. Martin knew of the university’s efforts to build a new arts facility, and he approached the university expressing interest in naming opportunities for the building. At that time, the construction of the building was several years away, and we talked to Mr. Martin about funding and naming a programming effort rather than a building. ETSU had drafted a plan to bring guest performing and visual artists to campus that would be of interest to both the university and the community. Mr. Martin made several donations to create the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, which began presenting guest artists in 2009.

“In February 2013, ETSU announced the beginning of a more public campaign to raise funds to support the construction of the building—part of the Arts Initiative Campaign. Under state mandates, ETSU was required to raise 25% of the cost of construction. Mr. Martin made an initial $3 million gift, and ETSU agreed to name the building in his honor. His estate, through his daughter Sonia S. King, gave another $1 million for a total of $4 million of the slightly more than $10 million we needed to raise.

“Mr. Martin was very interested in the programming of the Martin School, and he stayed engaged in conversations about the school and the new building until he passed away in 2015. Without his financial support, our fundraising efforts would have been more difficult. He dreamed of bringing arts events into our community that would help us engage in conversations and allow us to experience world class artists.”

Other significant funders include Johnson City, ETSU Foundation and Washington County, Tennessee.

For more information, visit www.etsumartincenter.org.

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