BAIA BITS: Frank Toby Martin


Little Moments Where Knowledge Meets Art

It all started while climbing through his grandfather’s dump. As a child in Jacksonville, Florida, Toby Martin was fascinated by the debris and discarded items he encountered there, mesmerized by their colors, shapes, and their reflection of light. This fascination would continue as he came of age, fueling his love of art and his ultimate discovery of, and passion for, sculpture. 

Graduating from Morehouse College in 1976, Martin continued honing his artistic skills after flirting with corporate America and the idea of becoming a professional baseball player. Acknowledging his passion for art exceeded his desire for industry or sport, he subsequently added a Masters in Fine Arts from Georgia State University.


“Spiritual Time” was designed by artist, Frank Toby Martin. Clark Atlanta University. “


After working in corporate America for years, Martin left his company and accepted a position at Spelman College to teach its Sculpture and Drawing course. He would remain there for over a quarter of a century teaching students, inspiring future artists, and perfecting his craft. Martin’s compelling sculptures expressed his passion for life and themes of the spirit, like his well-received “Music of Love Elevates the Soul.” Several of his outdoor sculptures are on display at Spelman’s campus and around the city of Atlanta.  

Martin was an avid traveler who, during his summer months, loved visiting other countries with his son and daughter. In August 2012, after teaching for over 25 years at Spelman, Martin succumbed to a brief illness at Atlanta’s Piedmont Hospital. His memorial service was held at Spelman College’s Sisters Chapel, on the college campus lined by his students and adorned by his art.

Ultimately. Martin’s artistic life journey inspired more than just the many students he taught. Upon his 2012 passing, his daughter, Nikki Martin, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution of his impact on her and her decision to leave a career in entertainment law. 

“My father was the inspiration for me to give all that up and become a performing artist,” Ms. Martin, told the AJC. 

“I decided I didn’t want to facilitate other people’s dreams; I wanted to live my own.”   

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