JACKIE MERRITT

A R T I S T
M U S I C I A N
S O N G W R I T E R
Jackie Merritt playing banjo at the Kennedy Center.jpg

Jackie Merritt at the Kennedy Center

Photo by Ronna Cohen

AN AFRICAN AMERICAN ARTIST & MUSICIAN

Jacqueline is a visual artist, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. In these two creative worlds (art and music), she is known by most as “Jackie” and is considered by many, a Renaissance woman.

A native of Norfolk, Virginia, in 1968 Jackie earned her BFA in Art Education from Norfolk State College (now, University). In 1970, she earned a Master of Arts degree with emphasis in Painting, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Additionally, she was the recipient of two Graduate Fellowships from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond and the other from the University of Wisconsin. After graduating, her first teaching position was at Elizabeth City State University, Instructor (Painting/Drawing); followed by University of Wisconsin, Madison, Visiting Lecturer (Drawing, 2D and 3D Design); then Norfolk State University, Instructor (Painting & Drawing); followed by Virginia Commonwealth University, Assistant Professor (Undergraduate and Graduate Painting/Drawing).

In 1971, one of her most memorable experiences was the honor of spending the summer with Georgia O’Keeffe in Abiquiu, New Mexico. At the end of the summer, Jackie was contacted by the University of Wisconsin to return as a Visiting Lecturer, which she did for one year.

 

Deciding to take a break from teaching, she relocated in New York City and worked as an Illustrator and Design Assistant at Random House Publications. Homesick, she returned back to Hampton Roads, to accept the position as Visiting Artist (Gifted Students Program), for the Virginia Beach Public School system. Later changing careers, into graphic design, she became a Visual Information Specialist at NAVFAC Atlantic, Norfolk, Virginia, (an Engineering/Architectural branch of the U.S. Navy), where she finally retired after twenty years.

Blues Harp Women CD Cover

CD cover artwork by Jackie Merritt

In 2015, Jackie had an original song featured on the internationally acclaimed CD, “Blues Harp Women” that celebrated female harmonica players. It was produced by Ruf Records out of Germany. In 2010, along with Resa Gibbs, she was accepted into the Library of Congress "Americana Women: Roots Musicians - Women's Tales and Tunes", as part of the MusicBox Project collection.

The musical journey started in her early twenties with two bands. “Hobart M. Cable Company”, her first, and “Blues Xchange”, a cherished group of friends, where she played bass for nearly twenty-six years. These two bands were known for their electric Chicago hardcore, gutbucket blues. During that time frame, Jackie helped create “The Honey Nuts”, the first women’s electric blues band in the Hampton Roads area. Then there was “Fever”, a high energy RB/Blues band, where she played harmonica. In 2001, she and band mates, Miles Spicer and Resa Gibbs created “M.S.G. Acoustic Blues Trio”, a Piedmont influenced acoustic blues band. Together, they have performed throughout the United States and continue to carry on the tradition of early blues music. M.S.G. has recorded three full-length CDs and one EP. In 2017, their latest recording, THE FLOOD, received a First-round Grammy nomination for “Best Traditional Blues Album”. Her most recent collaboration is again with partner and band mate, Resa. This recently formed duo, known as “Jackie & Resa” are also carrying on the tradition of acoustic blues, spirituals, and original compositions.

photo of Jackie Merritt with the Hampton City Council Spotlight Award

with the Hampton City Council Spotlight Award for Artist & Musician

Jackie’s second and final retirement 2006-2019, was from Thomas Nelson Community College. As an adjunct professor in the Department of Visual Arts, she again taught painting and drawing. Always active in the Hampton Roads community, she volunteered mutable terms as an Arts Commissioner. She has received numerous awards from the arts community, such as the “Alli Award” for Art/Music presented by the Cultural Alliance of Greater Hampton Roads. Her most recent honor was the Hampton City Council Spotlight Award (Artist & Musician).

Jackie was a charter member of the Natchel’ Blues Network (NBN). As a volunteer organization formed in 1984, the mission was to keep the Blues alive in Hampton Roads. Jackie served NBN for thirty-five years and during that time managed the Annual Hampton Acoustic Blues Revival. After the passing of John Cephas in 2009, she changed the name to the Annual Hampton Acoustic Blues Revival “A Tribute to John Cephas”. It was the only acoustic blues festival in the Hampton Roads area for many years. The festival unfortunately dissolved in 2013.  

photo of Jackie Merritt playing bones at the Kennedy Center

Jackie Merritt at the Kennedy Center

Photo by Ronna Cohen