by Greta Honsberger
NOT ONLY IS SAINTS RUNNING BACK Kirk Merritt talented on the field, but he is equally talented with a canvas and paintbrush. Amid a demanding football career, Kirk, a dedicated athlete known for his exceptional performance on the field, shares a unique aspect of his life that most people don’t know: He turns to art as his creative outlet. Kirk has found the balance between his passion for football and the pursuit of creativity, “Football always comes first, but during the off-season or on my days off, I spend painting or focusing on my art. It’s also such a great outlet for me to be creative and be present. I think it’s helped me on the field tremendously.” His insight sheds light on the profound impact that artistic expression can have, even on the football field.
Kirk’s passion for art began in 4th grade when he used to sketch in class. At that point, his subjects were his favorite cartoons. His first drawings evolved from pencil and paper, where he would draw characters from Spongebob to Mickey Mouse.
Continuing to sketch through his elementary and middle school years, it was when he got to high school that he left his pencil and paper behind and became curious about different mediums. He soon discovered an affinity for acrylics. Currently, acrylics are his favored artistic medium and his favorite.
A New Orleans boy, born and raised, Kirk genuinely appreciates his home and the art gracing every corner of the city. “Gosh, you just walk the streets, head to the French Quarter, look at the murals and artwork everywhere. It’s hard to not absorb it and carry it into your own work.”
Besides immersion in New Orleans art, Kirk is thrilled to return to his hometown. Returning to New Orleans to play for the Saints is a dream for this 26-year-old.
In explaining the full circle that has become his reality, Kirk says, “Every kid grows up thinking about what it would be like to play for their team. I had season tickets when I was 6, getting to watch the greats like Reggie Bush and Drew Brees, and to now be playing in the same place. Wow, it’s just surreal.” Regarding similarities between art and football, there are a few for Kirk.
Most importantly, he gives it his all whatever he does. He explains this simply but emphatically, “I’m gonna leave it all out there. On the field or on the canvas, I’m not holding back.” Coupled with appreciating the journey to success on the field or on the canvas, he understands what it takes and finds that patience, practice, and process are key.
Driven by his passion for art and wanting to share it with New Orleans youth, Kirk has partnered with KID smART. The mission of KID smART is to empower children and educators through artistic expression. Through providing resources to public schools, KID smART is creating an opportunity for underserved children to access an education enriched with the arts, a privilege they might not have encountered otherwise. This year, as a partner to the program, Kirk will participate in a series of art events to raise funds and awareness for the important initiative.
KID smART is a program that Kirk Merritt holds dear. “I fell in love with the mission of KID smART the moment I heard about them, so I’m very excited to work with them this season and hopefully beyond. I hope that I can help be a voice for the positive impact of art, especially for our youth, and I hope I can be a role model for kids to go pursue their passions.” Thinking of an even bigger picture, Kirk appreciates that the program empowers a generation of children and supports art teachers by training them in the program. “We’re impacting many, many generations.”
This season, Kirk is participating in the My Cleats My Cause auction. Looking to some KID smART students for design inspiration and help, Kirk is excited about the cleat he will create, play in, and then watch it bring top dollar at the NFL-sponsored fundraiser. The money that Kirk’s cleat brings in will go to KIDS smART. About his cleat, Kirk says, “OHHH, just you wait! The cleats are going to be fire!”
For this hometown boy whose dreams have come true, the advice he would give to someone who aspires to be an athlete or an artist is simple: Be unique and be you.
- Daily arts integration at 15 schools through our Creative Schools program
- Year-round professional development for educators
- Curriculum and literacy initiatives
- Community and family engagement events
For more information about KID smART, please visit their website at www.kidsmart.org.