Meet the Artist
Matthew Merril graciously accepted our invitation to provide the Christmas House Tour Program cover art in the middle of his Visual Arts Fellowship this past June. And even though he was painting in the middle of a hot Covid summer, he perfectly captures the solemnity of a cold winter day in front of the Little Sanctuary as the Christmas season approaches. Matthew is not only a consumate artist — in typical St. Albans fashion, he plies his varied talents in a variety of ways: tennis, swimming, theater, and performing with Jackets Off and with the Madrigal Singers (with a little time for a garage band on the side). Matthew loves a good story (both to hear and to tell), which he believes is the reason why he loves his English and history classes so much. We asked Matthew to share a little bit more about his artistic endeavors at St. Albans.
Describe your inspiration for the cover art as it relates to the Twelve Days of Christmas theme this year.
Matthew: There’s nothing quite like Christmas time on the close. The snowcapped buildings outline the unique architecture of our school. Those icy cold buildings become warm structures when I think about all the great people in our community who fill them. It’s our special community, praying for good in the world that, to me, embodies the holiday spirit. This pastel features the warmth of the little sanctuary on a crisp and snowy winter day. The twelve days of Christmas are represented by a pile of gifts near the Peace Cross. This reminds me of the many acts of generosity on display at St. Albans during the holiday season when you can walk around and see anything from food drives to community service.
What other art have you created this summer?
Matthew: It was fun doing visual art through the Parents’ Association’s Visual Arts Fellowship because I otherwise mostly enjoy digital media. So it was interesting to try something new with pairing and drawing. This summer, I spent a lot of time exploring video creation and production, and I made over one hundred cooking videos, creating what has become a popular cooking account on social media.
Thinking back on all of the art you’ve created at St. Albans, what was your favorite piece, and why was it your favorite?
Matthew: In A Form, I did a chalk drawing called ‘Portrait of Flowers.’ Ms. Tharp put it in the STA Bulletin, and an alum called the school wanting to buy it! We made a canvas print of it and gave it to him, but my mom kept the original, which hangs in our kitchen.
Tell us how the Covid quarantine has inspired your creativity or — in the alternative — been an obstacle to your creativity.
Matthew: The Covid quarantine gave me so much more time on my hands, not least of all because of not commuting to School! I was missing my friends and really missing theater and performing arts. So I started exploring videography and cooking, two of my passions. This gave me a performance and creativity outlet as I began posting my videos to social media channels. Having more time during Covid definitely allowed me to explore creativity with digital media in the kitchen, which I wouldn’t otherwise have done. And, it was great to feel productive during these really challenging times.
What is your best advice to a young artist that you have received or that you wish to impart to other students?
Matthew: Don’t be afraid to try new things! Not everything turns out and that’s how you figure it out.