The late Francis Sumner Merritt, founding director of the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle, Maine, was known for his innovative approach to education. He pioneered international sessions at the award winning craft school that he guided for more than twenty-five years. Writing of Merritt in 1976, the late metal smith, Ronald Hayes Pearson said, In his uniquely quiet, supportive, spiritual way, he has profoundly touched countless lives by bringing together diverse individuals to interact, to challenge, and to work, so that personal horizons expand and knots are untied.
Merritt studied art at Vesper George School of Art, San Diego Academy of Fine Arts, Massachusetts School of Art and Yale University School of Fine Arts. Before joining Haystack, he taught for fifteen years at the secondary and college level while pursuing a career as a painter-printmaker. He taught printing and drawing at Abbott Academy, Colby Junior College, the Cranbrook Summer Institute and Bradford Junior College, where he headed the art department. Before moving to Maine, he served as Director of the Flint Institute of Art, Flint, Michigan, the State Director for the Artists Equity Association of Michigan and as Chair of the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts and Letters.
During his long and distinguished career, he was an exhibition juror for annual shows in many states, was a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts and participated in numerous national craft conferences. He served as Vice-Chairman of the Maine State Commission on the Arts and Humanities. He organized Haystack-Arcosanti in collaboration with Paolo Soleri in 1975 and 1976. The recipient of an honorary degree from Colby College, he was named a Fellow of the American Crafts Council as well as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Art. He served as Chief U.S. Delegate at the World Craft Council. Mr. Merritt was a member of the Board of Visitors for Boston Universitys Program in Artisanry, a Trustee of Penland School of Crafts, an Advisory Member of Maine Coast Artists and a Board Member of the Eastern Maine Arts Council and the Deer Isle Artists Association. His work was represented in numerous national and international exhibitions throughout his life, including shows at the Corcoran Gallery, the Portland Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art.