Grosse Pointe Academy alum and noted artist is creating painting for the school’s 50th Action Auction.
When 1977 Grosse Pointe Academy alum Meg Mercier offered to donate one of her paintings to this year’s Action Auction, the school’s 50th, organizers were thrilled. But what they didn’t know at that time was that Mercier was going to use her alma mater itself as the inspiration for the painting.
“I am planning the painting for the auction, and I’m actually going to the Academy today to take some pictures for some ideas,” said Mercier in an interview in February. “I want to do something on the Academy for sure, but right now, I’m not quite sure. Might be a scene inside or could be outside.”
Well it turns out that Mercier is now very sure about the painting.
“Just finished a study for the painting,” she said. “I decided my subject was going to be ‘the steps.’”
The “steps,” Mercier said — the ones leading up to the school’s main entrance — are a very big part of her memories of GPA. “It was where we met up at the end of each day with my siblings and waited for our mother. They were like bleacher seats with different groups gathering, plus the big lawn always was the place for a little more play with our friends.
“For me they are a metaphor for learning and growing up,” she said. “As a family, we logged a lot of time on those steps waiting for our old station wagon to pull up. I have many happy memories from back then.
Back then, Mercier, who was the oldest of five in her immediate family who attended the Academy, said she actually started school on the campus when it was still under the tutelage of nuns.
“I was in the last class of Montessori with the nuns before the school transitioned from the Academy of the Sacred Heart to The Grosse Pointe Academy,” Mercier said. “So we actually were the first class to go from first through eighth grade as part of The Grosse Pointe Academy.”
Mercier also noted that both her grandmothers and her aunts attended the school when it was ASH.
From Miami of Ohio to Fenway Studios
After Mercier graduated from GPA, she attended Grosse Pointe South High School and graduated in 1981. She then matriculated to Miami University in Ohio as a science major, but a strong desire to follow her creative muse along with summer classes at the Rhode Island School of Design led to a completely new shift in direction.
“It was at RISD when I really decide to give studio art a shot,” she said.
Following her time at RISD, she got involved with the Fenway Studios, which was closely allied with the famed Boston School of painting and known primarily for its American Impressionist style with John Singer Sargent, Claude Monet and Jan Vermeer as major influences. Mercier spent more than 10 years studying in the Fenway Studios.
While studying at Fenway, which featured a roster full of luminaries that included Edmund Tarbell, Frank Benson, William Paxton and R.H. Ives Gammell, Mercier’s formal training came from painter Paul lngbretson. She worked in lngbretson’s atelier for most of her ten years at Fenway, and worked on cast drawing, still-life painting, which then graduated for her to figurative study and portrait painting.
It was at that time, also, that Mercier developed a love for painting “en plein air” as she looked to portray the poetry of everyday scenes, capturing moments in the outdoors of sunlight and simple gestures.
Fast-forward to today, Mercier is based primarily on Martha’s Vineyard near Boston (she is currently artist-in-residence for the Martha’s Vineyard Art Association), although she gets back to Michigan for a few months each year. She keeps a studio nearby in her brother’s apartment for when she feels the need to create while in Michigan.
“I’m going to be heading back to the Vineyard in May,” she said. “I’m usually at Martha’s Vineyard about eight months of the year, but I plan to be in town for the auction.”
Mercier’s studio on Martha’s Vineyard is in Edgartown Village on the eastern side of the island, which has been a constant source of inspiration for her.
“I am totally captivated by the natural and endless beauty of the Vineyard,” she said. “The sunrise is one my favorite times to paint outside. I love watching the incredible changing sky as the island wakes up.”
Beauty on many levels
While creating art on Martha’s Vineyard is a long way literally and figuratively from The Grosse Pointe Academy, Mercier said her former school remains near and dear to her heart, especially since it was while she was there that she first realized she might have more than an average talent for art.
But, she said, it was her younger sister who first got noticed as the family artist.
“Mrs. Hall, our GPA art teacher, told my mother that my sister Nell was showing extraordinary talent and that she should take some private art classes,” Mercier said. “But she was too shy to attend on her own, so I accompanied her to the classes and eventually took art lessons with Nell and soon began to get noticed myself. We were both so very young.”
Mercier says that even as a very young student at the Academy, she appreciated the breathtaking campus that surrounded her and her classmates.
“Going to school at such a beautiful place was special for me,” she said. “To be surrounded by such beauty, including the nature around the grounds and the architecture of the building. Plus, the spiritual beauty of the chapel, all of which I never, ever took for granted.”
More on Meg Mercier:
In addition to the Fenway Studios, Mercier studied with landscape painter John Osborne of the Ridgewood Institute and with Robert Douglas Hunter, another student of Ives Gammell. She spent a summer painting in Giverny, France, through the patronage of the late Ambassador Daniel J. Terra and his wife Judith. The Terras are founders of the Musée Americain Giverny, and owners of the former home and studio of Boston painter Lilla Cabot Perry on a unique property in France adjacent to Claude Monet’s original home and gardens.
A member of the Copley Society of Artists, the oldest art association in America, Mercier was recognized in 1993 with the prestigious “Excellence in Painting” award. She also is a member of the Catherine Lorillard Wolfe Club, the Allied Artists of America, and the American Society of Portrait Artists.
In addition, the National Arts Club, the Salmagundi Club, the Springfield Museum, and the Parkman House of Boston are among the many places her work has been exhibited. Some of Mercier’s awards include a Third Place at the 1998 Grand Exhibition of Ohio/Akron Artists’ Society, an Honorable Mention at the 1998 Springfield Realism Society, and First Place at the 1999 Duxbury Art Association.
More recently, a painting by Mercier was acquired by and will be displayed at the Carnegie Mellon Museum of Martha’s Vineyard. She also was selected by the Art Committee of the Union League Club of NYC to do a solo exhibition at the club next December, and she and her sister Nell are collaborating on a joint show this July at the North Water Gallery on Martha’s Vineyard.
More on the Academy’s 50th Anniversary Action Auction is here.
The Grosse Pointe Academy is an independent, coeducational day school serving children age 2-1/2 through Grade 8. We foster an inclusive environment that respects all cultures and religious beliefs. We seek to remain faithful to our heritage as a former Academy of the Sacred Heart and to those who through their Catholic faith and perseverance sought to preserve and enhance the legacy of this past for generations. Incorporated as a non-profit institution, The Grosse Pointe Academy is directed by a Board of Trustees working together to serve the Southeastern Michigan community.