Share Tweet Share Email

Art Museum exhibition to show ceramic works of late School of Art professor Helen Merritt

November 22, 2011
Helen and James Merritt

Helen and James Merritt

The NIU Art Museum will present “A Private Haiku: Ceramic Work of Helen Merritt” from Tuesday, Nov. 29, through Friday, Dec. 16.

This intimate memorial exhibition features some of the ceramic figurines, wall pieces, monumental vases and simple functional pots that the late Helen Merritt made over the years.

“A Private Haiku: Ceramic Work of Helen Merritt” offers insights into her personal life and the inspiration and influences she shared through creating her art. A selection of these pieces will be available for silent auction with proceeds to benefit the Helen Merritt Art Scholarship fund at NIU.

Having made figurines while living in Japan during her husband Jim’s fellowship in the 1950s, and then studying under Gib Strawn in the Art Department at NIU, Merritt worked as a ceramicist creating sculpture and wall hangings. Some of those can be seen in public buildings in DeKalb, including the DeKalb Public Library and the Kishwaukee Community Hospital.

Her artistic contributions continued into her later life as well.

For the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of DeKalb, she created a spectacular wall of floor to ceiling panels of clay and stained glass tiles. With the help of many volunteers, the project was four years in the making and dedicated in 2007.

A Private Haiku: Ceramic Work of Helen MerrittMerritt was an internationally respected scholar of Japanese prints; her book, “Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints,” and the companion, “Guide to Japanese Woodblock Prints” are considered essential to any study of the field

Her scholarship and curatorial activities continued well into her older years.

“Woodblock Kuchi-e Prints” was published in 2000, and she was acknowledged as the “unofficial co-curator” of a show of Hiratsuka prints, which opened at The Art Institute in Chicago on her 81st birthday.

As an educator, she taught art in elementary school, junior high school and high school, and was, for many years, a professor at the NIU School of Art. She received the award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 1990, and was treasured as a mentor by countless students.

Select pieces of Merritt’s ceramic work will be available for an ongoing silent auction from Thursday, Dec. 1, through Thursday, Dec. 15. Bids will be processed Friday, Dec. 16, and those who made the highest bids notified that day.

Pieces can be picked up between noon and 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17, and Sunday, Dec. 18, and by appointment Monday, Dec. 19, and Tuesday, Dec. 19, or after Tuesday, Jan. 3.

Located on the west-end first floor of Altgeld Hall, the galleries are open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and by appointment for group tours.

Exhibitions and lectures are free; donations are appreciated.

Pay parking is available in the visitor’s lot on Carroll Avenue and at metered spots in front of Altgeld Hall. Free parking is available Saturdays and during receptions and visiting artist lectures in the lot northeast of Gilbert and College Drives.

The exhibition is sponsored in part by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; the Friends of the NIU Art Museum; and the Dean’s Circle of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, NIU Foundation.

Call (815) 753-1936 for more information.