Meridy Volz Uses Art for Activism and Inspiration
Meridy Volz is an internationally acclaimed artist who is known for her paintings of figures and use of shockingly innovative electric color to create a mood.
In 2020 Meridy’s daughter, Alia Volz published the book. "Home Baked: My Mom, Marijuana and the Stoning of San Francisco,” which chronicled marriages, life running Sticky Fingers Brownies, an underground bakery that distributed thousands of marijuana brownies per month and helped provide medical marijuana to AIDS patients in San Francisco.
Meridy’s most recent work includes a series of paintings to benefit Black Lives Matter and teaching art to kids in juvenile hall.
Here’s an excerpt from our interview with Meridy.
Passionistas: Oh, we're so excited to talk to you today. What is the thing that you're most passionate about?
Meridy: I'm most passionate about my art, about expressing emotion through my art and about our activism in this day and age.
Passionistas: What is art activism?
Meridy: For me, art activism is using my creation of art to contribute to positive movement in the community to express feelings, things that are going on in the world right now in our, in our country right now, and do it through different mediums using color line, text your. And subject matter to express that and to bring change, to kind of shine the light on what is happening and give a very true response to it.
I'm very happy to be part of a movement for change in our time, which really is calling out for it.
Passionistas: Tell us how that started and tell us a little bit more about it.
Meridy: It actually started in 2006 when we started to have the economic collapse, right. And in the recession and all of that. And I thought, how am I going to make money to survive during this. And people were not able to afford classes at that time. It was so bad. And I thought, Hmm. And I walked into juvenile hall and I said, do you have anybody teaching art here?
I had in the past done workshops at San Quentin, may I add that? I painting workshops that, and that was like in the, it might've been the nineties. And I really liked that. It touched on touch something of the rebel inside of me, maybe the outline side of me a little. So I've walked into juvenile hall and they said we don't have money for that.
And I said, how about a five, five the money? So I wrote a grant first grant I ever wrote, and I was awarded the grant and that's where my program started in juvenile hall, where it was for a few years. And then it moved to the church. All on grants. I'm a 16 time recipient of grants from the Anderson children's foundation.
Then it was working with kids on the streets, out of the church here in desert hot Springs, which by the way, has no air conditioning in the summer. And it's 120 degrees here in the summer. That was a real sweat box. I have to say. And then there was gunfire at the church. There was some hassled between the rival gangs.
And there was a shooter who is shooting at my kids coming into class. And that was an eye opener for me. At that time, what I did was I took the boys into the sanctuary and we kind of hovered there. And I was like, if any of you are carrying anything, get rid of it because the police are on their way. And I said to myself, I don't want to get shot to do this, you know, bullet through my head.
So I then started going into alternative schools and bringing the art there. And in addition to teaching the art, we did the fair and they won awards. We did different shows where the boys were able and girls in the schools as boys and girls. Now it's just only boys are housed in India. The girls are in another facility.
I think it Riverside. And so I started going into schools and I have been in schools since and virtual now with the pandemic. Now I'm sent into juvie by Riverside county office of education, and it's a pilot program it's not done anywhere else. And it's very effective. You cannot reform kids. You can't change them without giving them some positive juice and our bins around corners.
That's what I have found is that as an artist, I mingle with what you might consider incarcerated people. You might judge them and say that's lower, lower end. And then very high-end with the adults that I teach artists can run the whole spectrum. And you just are the same. I'm married the artists no matter where I am, nothing changes about that.
And so that's where it's at now. That's where our heart is now. I find that schlepping art supplies with my back right now becomes more difficult. The physicality of it all is just a little harder than it was before, but I'm still in there. I'm still in the game and doing it.
To learn more about Meridy's artwork, visit MeridyVolz.art.
And to get a copy of her daughter, Alia Volz's book, "Home Baked," go to AliaVolz.com.
Hear Meridy’s complete episode here.