Hugh Merrill & Janet Kaufman

(Missouri) Artist Website Artist-in-Residence May-June Residency Year: 2015


Artist Hugh Merrill, a professor at The Kansas City Art Institute, was at Surel’s Place from mid-May through mid-June 2015, collaborating with Janet Kaufman, professor (at the University of Utah) and co-author of The Grump Meter, A Family Tool for Anger Control.  Merrill, an accomplished studio artist, spends much of his practice focused on community art projects which are steeped in his belief “that artists should enter society and create positive change, as well as retreat into their studios to articulate their own private voices.” While in residency, facilitated a youth community portrait project focused on the intersections of art, feelings, behavior, and identity. During this time, Merrill also worked in the studio to produce a series of five drawings/mixed media works that responded to the participants’ art with the Grump Meter. These large abstract drawings were based on the stories that participants told through their own art.

The project was a youth community portrait project focused on the intersections of art, feelings, behavior, and identity and it was based on and inspired by Kaufman’s book.  This project has been successfully carried out in multiple communities and has been praised by schools, parents, government offices, and corporations alike.

At heart, the Grump Meter is, an art project: youth and adults make their own Grump Meters, and each one is different and creates pathways to new observation, inquiry, insight, and connection. Making Grump Meters together gets people of all ages to reflect on their own lives artistically and playfully. The Grump Meter is a colored ladder, a visual representation of mood.  It serves as a tool to self-regulate emotion and as a reminder to stay calm (blue) and prevent the climb up to explosive anger (red). Discussions about the Grump Meter aim to teach people how to de-escalate before they start climbing the ladder.

To see this project in action, visit the following locations: YMCA, ANSER Public Charter School, Borah High School, Roosevelt Elementary, Idaho Fine Arts Academy, Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel, Boise Bicycle Project, and Boise State Writing Project.

This residency was sponsored, in part, by a generous grant from The Boise Weekly Cover Art Auction.

At the end oif the residency, Merrill and Kaufman held an interactive exhibition where they discussed their public art project (and the value of such projects in general), in addition to inviting patrons to participate in a related hands-on activity. To see photographs of the work, final show, and art talk of Mr. Merrill’s residency, please click here.