The Passing of a Painter: Eleanor Merritt

Visual Arts


The Sarasota-based painter Eleanor Merritt died yesterday, sources say and the artist’s website confirms. She was 86.

Merritt left her mark on Sarasota since her arrival in the 1980s, exhibiting in group and solo shows, as well as becoming involved in the greater arts community and its administration. A longtime member of the Art Uptown artist collective, she exhibited under the big red awning on Main Street, and she showed at ArtCenter Manatee, Art Center Sarasota and Venice Art Center, where she once served as president for a time. A member of Petticoat Painters, one of the oldest continually exhibiting women’s arts groups in the country, Merritt was also the founder of Women Contemporary Artists.

She joined the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County back when it was called the Sarasota County Arts Council, and served on the board. And she served as chairman of the Public Art Committee when so many pieces of public art were installed outside area libraries in the ‘90s. Somewhere in all this, Merritt found time to sit on the board at the Ringling Museum, where she also volunteered as a docent for 25 years.

In February 2017, the Arts and Cultural Alliance hosted a retrospective exhibition of Merritt’s work, entitled Sixty Years of Painting, 1957–2017. The Center for Arts and Humanity was packed, with attendees lined up out the door, craning their necks to see the artist address the crowd. “It was very special, and empowering,” she told SRQ at the time, before cracking a joke. “I think my name’s known around town.”

Eleanor Merritt: 1933–2019.

Pictured: Eleanor Merritt at the opening of "Sixty Years of Painting, 1957-2017" in February 2017. Photo by Michael White.

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