85 Years of Creativity

8.17.1933 - 1.16.2019


Eleanor Merritt
Fine artist Eleanor Merritt Darlington passed away peacefully in her home on Wednesday, January 16 after a long battle with lung cancer. She was 85.

Born in Harlem, NYC, she was the youngest of five children born to Jamaican immigrants. She attended the High School of Music and Art and graduated in 1951. She continued her studies at Brooklyn College where she learned from such luminaries as Ad Rinehart, Mark Rothko and James Ernst. She received her B.A. in Art in 1955, and her M.A. in Fine Arts and Education in 1958. Merritt was the first African-American art teacher and department chair in the Nassau County district.

Eleanor was involved in the greater arts community and its administration. She served as chairman of the Public Art Committee and on the board of the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County. She also served on Women’s Caucus for Art; National Museum of Women in the Arts, was Board Emeritus Member of John & Mabel Ringling Museum of Art; Docent for 25 years at the Ringling Museum, board member and former President of the Venice Art Center; Arts Council board member; chair of the Art in Public Places Program; board member of Art Center, Sarasota. She was a long standing member of Florida Artists Group, and Petticoat Painters. Ms. Merritt founded and was a member of Women Contemporary Artists.

Among her many awards, Eleanor was honored by The Ringling Foundation in 2017. The Sarasota-Manatee chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women recognized her as one of their 2015 Women In Power honorees.

Merritt has exhibited in group and solo shows throughout her career. In February 2017, the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County hosted a retrospective exhibition of Merritt’s work, entitled Sixty Years of Painting, 1957–2017. Read more about the exhibit at Broadway World. A one woman show, Revelations of Goddesses was displayed from 2014 – 2015 at Houston Museum of African American Culture, in Houston, Texas. Read more about the exhibit at The Houstonian.

She was married to Lorenzo Merritt from 1954 – 1976, and to Chris Darlington from 1980 to his passing in 2017. She is survived by her sister, Mrs. Pauline Butler, of Tucson AZ, two daughters, Ms. Lori Merritt and Dr. Lisa Merritt, granddaughter and emerging artist Amara Merritt, as well as a host of nieces, nephews and friends.

Ms. Merritt believed that
“…Art can open a window in time – it speaks to the heritage of the past, but carries these traditions into the future”
as we will carry Eleanor’s memory.

The Passing of a Painter: Eleanor Merritt
By Philip Lederer, SRQ Magazine

Ms. Merritt’s Obituary, Legacy.com



In Memorium

We observe the anniversary of Ellie’s passing with a few moments in time to remember her effervescent Spirit, beautiful smile and amazing body of artwork. Early childhood Family Young Family Memory Lane Memory Lane Memory Lane Memory Lane

In honor of former board member Eleanor Merritt, a special fund was created to attract and assist artists of color to join the Florida Artists Group.

Dedicated To Eleanor

The Petticoat Painters Artist Organization
dedicated their Annual Show to Ms. Merritt.
April 2, 2019 - April 26, 2019

Please visit Petticoat Painters.

A.S.A.H.L. Memorial Exhibit
North County Library

The exhibit showcased the diversity of techniques and styles Ms. Merritt has used during her sixty years of creativty.

Works included painting, mono-prints and ceramics. Mrs. Harriet Cowan, a family friend attended, Dr. Lisa Merritt and Ms. Lori Merritt presented the program.

Paintings by by Artist Eleanor Merritt Harriet Cowan with works by Artist Eleanor Merritt

Additional pieces and ceramics by by Artist Eleanor Merritt

Water Dreams Painting by Eleanor MerrittEleanor Merritt Darlington with her daughter Lori Merritt.
Herald-Tribune Photo by Rod Millington

Eleanor was honored by The Ringling foundation at The Association of Fundraising Professionals National Philanthropy Day Luncheon at Michael's on East, Tuesday November, 14, 2017. The group's mission Is to advance philanthropy by enabling people and organizations to practice ethical and effective fundraising.

Presented By
Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County
View Map
February 2, 2017 through February 24, 2017

Take the 2017 Retrospective Virtual Gallery tour.

From Eleanor Merritt…

Selected works from the last 60 years have been included in this exhibition, to mark the transitions which have taken place in my work and in my life. Although my imagery is mainly figurative, the concepts behind the visual statement deals with very personal expressions. Actually, this exhibition is a sum total of a 60-year journey as a woman of color who is also an artist.

During that journey, I have made political statements; personal statements revolving around close relationships in my life; statements about the condition of women and the roles they play; statements about the connections I feel to my ancestry; statements about the spirituality and the strength of women. Some themes are repeated; they seem to re-emerge as I try to express the moment, the concept, in a better way.

The most important turning point for me in terms of style and technique came when I changed from painting in oils, then to acrylics and then moved to water-based media. I have found in that transition the freedom of working with color and the ability to achieve greater fluidity in line and brush. The use of collage and mixed-media techniques has opened and expanded my vision to perhaps a more abstract image; but certainly one which I still feel is strongly expressive of who I am as an artist.

To read more about this show, please visit:
SRQ Magazine: "Retrospective Exhibit Celebrates Artist Eleanor Merritt" by Philip Lederer.
Broadway World Review: "Eleanor Merritt Art Exhibit at Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County" by Carolan Trbovich.

Collectors & Selections

Several works were purchased during the showing.

Ancestral Dream Dance, I Kasdan
Ira Kasdan was gifted Ancestral Dream Dance for his birthday by his wife, Victoria.

Carrying Firewood, J Stewart, C Sheffield
Carrying Firewood was chosen by James and Caryl to compliment their extensive art collection.

Green Goddess, G Albert, J Albert
Julie and Gordon Albert were delighted to bring home Green Goddess.

Tears in the Rain, P Chatard
Tears in the Rain is now owned by Pat Chatard.

Reception Photos

The Retrospective Artists Reception took place February 9, 2017, and was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Merritt with Jim Shirley
Eleanor Merritt with Alliance Executive Director Jim Shirley.

Merritt with daughter Lori
The artist and her daughter, Lori Merritt, with the work MOTHER AND DAUGHTERS.

Merritt describing work
Ms. Merritt describes her work JAMIE AND ME.

Artist's statement
In her opening statement, the artist describes her career and the evolution of her work over 60 years.

Merritt with guests
We had a great turn out of both old friends and new!

Merritt with guests
Harriett and Clarence congratulate Ms. Merritt on the retrospective show.

MBuffet Table
The buffet included HARMONY rolls, a creation of JPan Restaurant, inspired by the painting of the same name.

Eleanor Merritt, Lori Merritt and GRANDMA WAS 105
Eleanor Merritt, Lori Merritt and painting Grandma was 105.

The artist, with her works ANGEL OF MERCY - 911 (left) and CARRYING FIREWOOD (right).
The artist, with her works ANGEL OF MERCY - 911 (left) and CARRYING FIREWOOD (right).

figurative references

I have always used figurative references in my work. Over time these images have become more abstract and the painted surface very textural. My paintings have symbolic and/or personal revelations as to my point of view. The viewer must look at the artwork as images not based on reality but on pure imagination.

My style continues to evolve with persistent exploration. As an artist, this journey has been one of constant experimentation and renewal of my creative force with each image I create.


Eleanor Merritt moderates "Voices" community forum

Ringling College of Art & Design presents: SPECTRUM A CELEBRATION OF ARTISTIC DIVERSITY

This exhibition shines a bright light on the spectrum of African-American artistic practices from the early 20th century to present day. We invite you to explore the stylistic evolutions powerfully expressed in the works of these 23 African-American artists. Including vibrant paintings, quilts, prints, sculpture, and drawings, this exhibition is a unique opportunity to view historical reflections and contributions of cultural importance. 

Featured artists include: Benny Andrews, E.M. Bannister, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Romare Bearden, Ernest Crichlow, Joseph Delaney, Robert S. Duncanson, Gaye Ellington, Gale Fulton-Ross, Frederick Jones, Lois Mailou Jones, Ronald Joseph, Jacob Lawrence, Richard Mayhew, Eleanor Merritt, Charles Ethan Porter, Faith Ringgold, Aminah Robinson, Therman Statom, James Van Der Zee, and Charles White. 

Ringling College of Art and Design is grateful to partner with the ACA Galleries in bringing these exceptional works to Sarasota.  We would also like to thank Mr. Warren R. and Marie E. Colbert, Mrs. Carol Camiener, and Dr. Lisa Merritt for the generous loan of artworks for this exhibition.  Special thanks to Melanie S. Thomas, Greatness Beyond Measure, Newtown Alive, Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition, and Marie Selby Botanical Gardens for their support and partnership.

Sponsored by The Community Foundation of Sarasota County, SRQ Media Group, Home Resource, and by NPR Radio Stations WUSF 89.7 and WGCU
Admission to this exhibition and all events are FREE and open to the public. 


  • Newtown Alive Legacy Reception, January 18, 5:30-8pm
  • MLK Day Celebrations, January 20, All Day
  • Opening Reception (Art Walk), January 24, 5-8pm
  • Art and Soul in Motion + Spoken Word Cafe, January 25, 6-9pm
  • An evening lecture with Marian Carpenter, Director of Collections, Ringling Museum, February 5, 6-8pm.  Presentation begins at 6:30pm

Gallery Hours: Monday – Friday, 10am – 4pm



Eleanor Merritt moderates "Voices" community forum

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe presents two ‘Voices’ community forums

"Meet the Florida Highwaymen Artist"
Eleanor Merritt Darlington, moderator

Photos courtesy of Don Daly Photo.
On February 8, 2016 WBTT (the only professional black theater company on Florida’s West Coast) presented a fundraising program which focused on the Florida Highwaymen, a group of 26 African-American artists who – from the early 1950s through the 1980s – painted beautiful landscapes of undeveloped, serene Florida landscape. The artists sold their paintings door-to-door to businesses and individuals throughout Florida because gallery owners in the segregated South wouldn’t show their work.

The evening included a reception to meet artists and view artwork. There was a panel discussion with the artists and longtime collector Larry Helmuth which was moderated by Eleanor Merritt Darlington. Highwayman Al Black also presented a painting demonstration. WBTT Voices Attendees with Ms. Merritt
Reception Attendees with Ms. Merritt


Art Center Sarasota showcases powerful works by African-American artists.
by: Marty Fugate, Staff Writer, yourobserver.com

"ASALH: Black Muse 2016"
exhibition at Art Center Sarasota

Please join us for the Artists Reception, Thursday, Jan. 28, 5 to 7 p.m.
at Art Center Sarasota Exhibtion runs January 28 through March, 2016

Ms. Merritt at Art Center Ms. Merritt is pictured outside Art Center Sarasota.
Story and photo by Marty Fugate, for yourobserver.com



Sarasota-Manatee Section
2015 National Council of Jewish Women

Women In Power

NCJW Women In Power 2015 Honorees

Women In Power Honorees(from left) Renee Hamad, President of the Women’s Resource Center of Sarasota County, Wendy Surkis, President of the Sarasota Museum of Art/SMOA, and Eleanor Merritt.

The 33rd Annual Women in Power Luncheon was held on January 21 at Michael’s on East. The annual event honors women whose accomplishments mirror NCJW’s focus on social justice by improving the lives of women, children and families and by safeguarding individual rights and freedoms. Read more at the NCJW website.





National Museum of Women in the Arts Florida Artists Group Women Contemporary Artists Women Contemporary Artists Sarasota Arts and Cultural Alliance