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Kamara Marsh is March/April featured artist at TBA Gallery

News Photo by Darby Hinkley Alpena artist Kamara Marsh will be the featured artist for the months of March and April at Thunder Bay Arts Gallery in downtown Alpena. Above, Marsh stands at the counter in front of several of her paintings.

ALPENA — Kamara Marsh drew her first mural in crayon on her bedroom wall at the age of 3 or 4, and she’s been creating unique and colorful art ever since then.

Marsh, who goes by “Kami,” will be the March/April featured artist at Thunder Bay Arts Gallery in downtown Alpena. A reception will be held in her honor from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Friday, in the TBA Gallery, 127 W Chisholm St. The reception is free and open to the public.

“I did a beautiful mural on my bedroom wall with crayon,” Marsh recalled. “It was not well-received by my parents,” she added with a laugh.

The award-winning artist has earned positive attention for her work since then, recently taking the People’s Choice Award for her mixed metals piece “Hope Arises” at Art in the Loft, as well as an honorable mention in the “METALS” juried art show held in the fall.

Marsh talked about her beginnings and her journey as both an artist and therapist. She said her mom got her colored pencils and drawing paper for her when she was 5, for Christmas.

News Photo by Darby Hinkley Kamara Marsh holds one of her painted saws beside more of her artwork hanging in the gallery at 127 W. Chisholm St.

“I started drawing pictures of people, and they were all bandaged and hurting,” she said. “My mom thought I was going to be a counselor or someone that helps people.”

Now, she helps hurting people as a licensed professional counselor specializing in trauma, grief and loss, addictions, and anxiety and panic disorders. She’s been doing that professionally since 2003.

Marsh was born in Michigan and grew up in a small town South of Lansing. She continued her art career in her teens.

“I went from crayons to painting acrylic landscapes at 13,” she explained in her bio. “I was invited to lead the painting of a community mural at the county fairgrounds at 17, which gained world recognition. After high school, I enrolled in the art program at Lansing Community College, and later received an associate degree in Illustration. I drew photographic likenesses of both people and animals in my 20s and my medium of choice became pencil, charcoal, and ink.”

She talked about some of the challenges in her life.

“Life took a different path for me and I ended up a single mom in 1996,” she said in her written bio. “In 1998, I was told my son he had special needs. I decided to return to school to pursue my bachelor’s degree with the hopes of some day getting a graduate degree and becoming a therapist.”

In 1999, she suffered from a head injury that left her dominant hand partially paralyzed.

“Thinking my art career was finished, I stopped creating altogether for almost two decades,” Marsh explained. “However, I didn’t drop out of school, as challenging as it was to continue. In spite of having to virtually learn to read and write again, I still finished graduate school top of my class and went on to work in a rehabilitation center helping people with brain injuries like myself. In 2007, I wrote, illustrated and published a book on overcoming loss and later ran my own private counseling practice out of East Lansing.”

In 2016, she returned to acrylic painting again, only this time using a sponge instead of a paintbrush.

“I thought, ‘OK, I don’t think I should assume my gift is gone. I miss art,'” she recalled.

“I created a unique abstract style, which I still use today,” she said. “While on vacation in northern Michigan in 2018, I tried my hand at seascapes while at the beach and, being very inspired by the beauty of Lake Huron, I finished two small seascapes in less than one hour and they sold on the spot that day!”

Like many who visit Northeast Michigan, Marsh finally planned her move up north.

“In 2019, I decided to move to Alpena, the place I now call home,” she said. “I’ve continued painting acrylics: abstracts, landscapes, and seascapes. One of the paintings I am most proud of enables the viewer to enjoy it with all five of their senses. I also love creating commissioned pieces for individuals and being able to translate someone else’s idea onto canvas. It is both challenging and rewarding at the same time.”

The hardest season of her life came in October 2021.

“I lost my one and only sibling. At that point, art became therapy for me,” Marsh said. “I returned to painting murals and painted one in my backyard in memory of my sister, Kimberly. Another part of my healing has been getting involved in my community and helping others work through their grief of losing a loved one. I have been trained in art therapy and love combining the two gifts given to me of creating and helping others. I hope to some day become certified and run art therapy groups out of my loft studio.”

Marsh has participated in Art in the Loft’s yearly juried show for the past six years.

“This has really brought me out of my artistic comfort zone and developed my style as well as improved my skills as an artist,” she stated. “I have also ventured out into various mediums, including working with metal and wood. My piece entitled ‘Emerald Rain’ won an honorable mention in 2021. My my piece entitled ‘Touch the World’ won third place in 2022. My piece entitled ‘Hope Arises’ not only won an honorable mention, but also won the People’s Choice Award” in 2023.

She noted why she continues to create art.

“My favorite part of being an artist is seeing other people enjoy my artwork. My favorite thing is the reaction people give me,” Marsh said. “That touches me. I love people enjoying it.”

She loves making a positive impact in other people’s lives through both artwork and therapy.

“I love how I can combine the helping people and the creating,” she added. “That’s how I let my light shine.”

Her goals for the future include starting up some art therapy group sessions, and continuing to share her artwork with the world.

“I plan to spend the rest of my life leaving my ‘print’ on northern Michigan and the rest of the world, one person, one piece at a time,” Marsh said.

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