Martha Worthley is the new executive director at Northwind Art in Port Townsend.

Martha Worthley is the new executive director at Northwind Art in Port Townsend.

Northwind Art names new executive director

PORT TOWNSEND — She thought she’d jump in, help out, “and keep things running until someone else came along,” recalled Martha Worthley, who became interim executive director of Northwind Art last November.

The nonprofit organization, which operates Northwind Art School at Fort Worden and Jeanette Best Gallery downtown, began a search for a permanent director after Teresa Verraes resigned late last year.

Then Worthley, an artist, educator, business owner and former member of Northwind Art’s board of directors, had a realization.

“When I met the staff and talked to them about their work and started to see more possibilities, I thought, ‘I can make a difference here,’” she said.

Worthley began exploring the possibility of becoming the permanent executive director. She talked with the Northwind Art board. She kept working with the staff.

“And I just got really invested in the work,” Worthley said, laughing.

“I thought, ‘Wow, there’s a way to make this whole big idea of Northwind be a fabulous thing for our community,’” she said.

It’s time to take it to the next level, Worthley said.

The Northwind board of directors, following a series of discussions, voted unanimously to appoint Worthley the permanent executive director.

“Removing ‘interim’ from Martha’s title demonstrates her commitment to the organization and the board’s confidence in her leadership,” said Northwind board president Linda Rosenbury. “She has impressed staff, donors and artists with her skills and her passion.”

Worthley has lived in Port Townsend for more than 40 years. She’s been a teacher and a journalist. As program manager at Centrum, she developed the Emerging Artists Residency program.

For many years, Worthley has owned and operated Mim & Poppy Design, an art business named after her mother, Mim, and her Aunt Poppy.

“My entire life, art has been what I do, who I am, the water I swim in,” she said.

Worthley attended the San Francisco Art Institute during the 1970s and was part of an early feminist art workshop there. At that “very macho” institute, teachers Suzanne Lacy and Faith Wilding taught her that her experience and artistic voice were just as worthy as anyone’s.

Worthley and Northwind’s staff and volunteers are preparing to open a new show at Jeanette Best Gallery, 701 Water St.: “Lush Language,” featuring art by Isabel Elena Pérez of Quilcene, Tininha Silva and Claire Ragland of Port Townsend and Becca Fuhrman of Seattle. Their work ranges from etchings and prints to ceramics and pastels.

“All of it is ablaze with symbolism and color,” said Northwind Art communications manager Diane Urbani.

At Northwind Art School, more than 45 offerings are listed at Jewelry classes have recently been added, as have summer youth camps.

Worthley said one of her goals is to expand the school further, to add a wider variety of courses and workshops. At the same time, she wants to enhance Jeanette Best Gallery, making it a place that represents the area, and where people can come in, take a breath and be delighted.

“Visual art always encourages an exchange of ideas,” Worthley said.

The more dialogue we have in society that is centered on the arts, the better, she believes.

The arts “bring us to our humanity,” Worthley said.

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