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Hugh Merrill, Artist, Teacher, Writer, Poet, and Activist with Love

Updated: Jan 31, 2023

Hugh Merrill touched lives everywhere he went with his charismatic personality and love for the arts community. He will be remembered with admiration and fondness for his teaching at the Kansas City Art Institute and his work with other creatives. Hugh was constantly creating and thinking of what was next. Hugh still has art hanging at the Hotel Indigo and the Bunker Center of Arts.

Hugh Merrill was a man whom I felt so lucky to be working with. The first time we met, Hugh agreed to be interviewed by me. I was working on my master’s degree in journalism and was ecstatic when he said that he would do an interview. We were supposed to have a board meeting for Jump Start Art KC at his home to inspire the other board members by going to a world-known artist, educator, writer, poet, and activist’s home.

Unfortunately, or should I say how fortunate I was that no other board members showed up except Sharon Eiker and myself, and naturally, I brought all my camera gear on the whim that I might get an interview but did not bring my gear in the house. I did not want to come off too strong, but my final Capstone project was on the Crossroads and Jim Leedy and how “The Crossroads” began.

Hugh Merrill talking with Sharon Eiker in 2021 of September. Photo by Kat Day

This was my first-time meeting Hugh Merrill in 2021 on September 5. Not long after I got an hour interview from Hugh, I got a call from him asking me if I knew how to work in InDesign. I told him yes. He texted me that he would love to have me working with him in creating his books, Chronicling his works of art. I felt completely honored to work with him. Through working with Hugh Merrill, I gained a fast close friend, a colleague, and someone I admired and adored. He was filled with the knowledge of art, history, and stories that I was getting an education just working with him.

My Hero Hugh Merrill Sharon Eiker took this photo with my camera

To work with such a knowledgeable man was a privilege and honor to me. I can only imagine what his students thought of him. Hugh's knowledge of art and history was limitless and fascinating. Plus, he was my dear friend. I have put five books together of his art of different times, and it has been so engaging learning about what inspired him to do each set of works of art. He told me the books would go to the New York Museum of Art. The plan was to finish putting each period of work together then we were going to write a big book that had all of his works of art and told his story. I was so excited to be a part of his life and able to help him complete his work. The last book I will hope to finish hoping that he finished his writing on what inspired him to create “Due Unto – Torso.”

One of Hugh Merrill pieces on Torso Photo by Kat Day

I have spent a year working with Hugh Merrill creating his books of art and updating his website, and it has been such an honor to work with a man that I think of as an icon of art. Hugh Merrill was like working with Picasso, Rembrandt, or Van Gogh of this time era. I absolutely loved this man and his knowledge of art. He will never be forgotten. Hugh Merrill, you are loved. Rest in Peace, my dear friend, and thank you for all that you have given to me.

Please listen to the interview that I videoed with Hugh Merrill during our first meeting over a year ago about his life. Hugh Merrill has given so much to the art community and his students, and fellow artists. You will live through us and your works of art. Know that you are loved and never forgotten.

Hugh Merrill has some amazing pieces hanging in the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art!

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