Meramec student wins $20,000 scholarship

Posted on 05 May 2015 by admin

Art student Matt Johnson plans to attend the Kansas City Art Institute


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Matt Johnson, an art student at STLCC – Meramec, recently received a $20,000 scholarshipMatt Johnson thumbnail to the Kansas City Art Institute – a private college of fine arts and design. Graduating from Clayton High School in 2009, Johnson has been taking classes at Meramec for four years. Like most art students, he started by taking the basic classes such as Drawing I and Painting I and worked his way up. He is now at the advanced painting level.

Despite being in Ohio and living in Pennsylvania for a period of time, Johnson said he considers himself a native, and has been living in St. Louis for 20 years. He says he was attracted to art at a very young age and that he enjoyed participating in the city’s art scene; however, he didn’t expand upon his interest in art until much later on in his life.

“I don’t think it really hit me as a viable option. For a long time I had all of these plans; I wanted to be an architect or an actor. Once things kind of settled I realized I’d much rather be an artist and do something visual because I think that’s something I can keep up with, and it’s something that I really enjoy continuously doing, whereas all those other things I think were kind of fads,” Johsnon said.

Johnson credits the change in his perspective to an art class he took his junior year of high school. He said that while the work he was doing was not his best, he found it satisfying and it spoke to him as something he wanted to do.

It wasn’t until the previous year when Johnson was able to show his work in a gallery, though, that he realized just how much he wanted to make a successful living off of his artwork.

“I realized how much effort is actually going to be needed to be successful to [make a living] off of doing this. I think I just found that super appealing. It verified exactly what I wanted to do. It propelled me to the level of motivation that was required,” Johnson said.

Meramec Fine Arts and Painting Instructor Margaret Keller said she was not surprised to discover that Johnson received the highest award in painting from the Kansas City Art Institute. As a student, she said that Johnson has been focusing on developing his own individual style so that he can stand out in the art world.

In the past, Johnson has done a variety of projects and has worked with several different mediums. For his first gallery show, he displayed a series of drawings he had done while studying at Meramec, and his portfolio is full of sculptures of mixed media projects. Currently, he recycles his past work by painting still lifes over the surface of the old paintings and allowing it to create a unified visual.

He said that while many people would paint over the old image and prime the surface, he enjoys the features and qualities of the past subjects, and wanted to incorporate them into his final piece.

“He’s really, really passionate about art and finding his own style and so now that he’s in Advanced Painting what he’s been doing is creating his own unique style of painting – which I’ve never seen anything like it,” Keller said.

As an art student, Keller describes Johnson as a very serious, very well-informed individual. She said that he spends a great deal of time following the events happening in the art world, and that he knows famous artists and their work. She also said that Johnson is very hard-working, and that he himself credits that to taking the right amount of time to consider his true passions.

After graduating from high school, Johnson took a few years off of college to work and to discover what he was most interested in. A few academically-rigorous semesters set him back on his path, but he said that he is grateful for those experiences because they reminded him of what he truly wanted, he said.

“I am definitely glad I had that experience to show me when I was ready. So I’m thankful for that,” Johnson said. “It’s really important to me that I take this seriously, and so I needed to fail first to show me that.”

As for advice for future or current Meramec art students, Johnson said to not be so concerned with time. He said to be patient with academic progress and to spend time doing the tedious and difficult assignments.

“What worked for me [as a Meramec art student] was just doing everything I could to sit down and do the projects and give it my all. My first three semesters I didn’t get to do my own work, and as frustrating as it is I think that’s where I learned a lot of the skills I use today,” Johnson said. “I would just recommend people keeping their nose to the grindstone. It works out. It’s difficult, but it definitely works. It may seem fruitless at the time, but it’s a great way to improve yourself and get better.”

Johnson’s goals for Kansas City include “not starving” and putting his work out into the public. He said he hopes to have another solo gallery showing either by graduation or before his graduation. Johnson said he feels very supported in his journey and is thankful for the support of his family, his boyfriend Scott and his friends on the Meramec campus.


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