VERGE ALUMNI PROFILE

Meet Nikki Martens

  • Founder, Plein Air Outdoor Arts

  • Expertise: Nature-based arts education

  • Services: In-school programs, organization residencies, and kids camps that explore ecology through creative expression

Nikki's Story

Nikki received her BFA in Drawing at Alberta College of Art + Design (now AUArts) before tramping across New Zealand. She then earned a BEd at the University of Calgary and pursed her off-grid dreams in the Kootenays before returning to teaching.

Before her Verge PDC, Nikki found it difficult to connect the dots between her varied life experiences and passions. Afterwards, she began to see the value of integrating what was living at the margins of her life. Nikki soon planted her first seed with her grade 7 gardening class (literally and figuratively!)

While working with complex learners, Nikki noticed how major issues didn’t follow her students outside. They thrived, dreamt up forest gardens, dug their hands into the soil, and played in the sunshine. Though studies support the benefits of nature and art-based learning, it was a revelation to see them in action, first-hand.

Nikki left full-time teaching and pursued a horticulture certificate at Olds College. She began a nature-based arts and workshop program for kids and for the public, all the while building her career as a visual artist. Plein Air Outdoor Arts has since blossomed from Nikki’s winding path; she has discovered her “piggy-ness” to help people build relationships with the wild and wonderful world through creative exploration.

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About Plein Air Outdoor Arts

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We are lovers and explorers of the wild, wonderful world, keen on supporting learners of all ages and backgrounds to engage with nature through art and play.”

Plein Air Outdoor Arts’ name and credo was inspired by the French expression en plein air (pronounced plane air) which translates to “in full air.” It was coined after artists who painted outdoors. Whether it’s creating a living wall, plotting root systems in paint, or building mini-wicking beds, Plein Air builds expressive learning experiences that delve deep into nature.

Plein Air designs and leads everything from afternoon workshops and summer camps to in-school and in-organization residencies. Working with a rotating roster of local artists, scientists, and outdoor enthusiasts, Plein Air focuses on connecting people with the living ecosystem through hands-on artistic exploration. This can include anything from following the wind on a walk, building tiny homes for ladybugs, to giving out high-fives to people encountered while walking along a river path.

Partnering with Workshop Studios in Inglewood, Plein Air also operates a week-long, inner-city day camp that has participants wandering through the urban wilds in search of a natural muse. Through drawing, photography, ceramics, sculpture, and performance, they are encouraged to observe and interact with their surrounding ecologies.

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Interested in Nikki's workshops and summer camps?

Phone: 403-909-3616

Website: www.pleinairarts.ca

Email: pleinairoutdoorarts(at)gmail.com / nikki.martens(at)gmail.com

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