The final artist spotlight for 2022 falls on CBAW Co-Founder and Veteran Artist, Joe Merritt!

For December, we are proud to spotlight the awe-inspiring work of CBAW co-founder, and our friend, Joe Merritt. Joe was medically retired from the United States Marine Corps in 2016 after 10 years of honorable service. During his medical treatment, Joe rediscovered art and has built a successful career as a professional artist, exhibiting his work and presenting gallery talks across the country. He is a steward of the veteran art community, leading art programming with active duty and veteran populations in DC, MD and VA.

Continue reading below for our discussion with Joe about artmaking, community, and CBAW.

CBAW: What medium (or form) did you start with and how has it evolved over the years? Why have you gravitated toward each medium?

Joe Merritt: “The medium that got me interested in art again was paper making and printing. I quickly fell in love with acrylic painting as it was readily available and an easy learning curve.”

CBAW: What do you love about making art or writing poetry?

JM: “For both Mediums communication is always the intended goal. They both have their pros. I lean more towards visual art.”

CBAW: What is your favorite quote about art/poetry/life?

JM: “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”

CBAW: What experiences have led you to making art and writing poetry?

JM: “I leaned into creative writing and art as a way of trying to convey stories and emotions I had experienced. Eventually I found myself instead.”

CBAW: What do you think about when you are creating?

JM: “All depends on the project; I do a lot of woodworking now most of my times spent thinking about where I set my pencil down at.”


Joe Merritt Woodbone Studios Art (1)
Joe Merritt Woodbone Studios Art (1)


CBAW: What do you hope someone gets from looking at your artwork or listening to your poetry?

JM: “That’s a really broad question, everything between hope and whimsy.”

CBAW: What motivated you to be a founding member of CBAW? and/or why was it important to have an organization like CBAW?

JM: “This work saved my life. After I was retired from USMC, I started facilitating poetry and art workshops in military spaces. We had an amazing group of artistic visionaries on the team. I got to watch those workshops expand and grow and touch thousands of lives. There was never a doubt about the effectiveness of it. So, when the time came going into the non-profit sector made the most sense. The work that’s being done still amazes me.”

CBAW: What is your favorite part about being a facilitator?

JM: “I love the community the most, the regulars that show up like it’s their job. It’s a validation that this not only helped me but continues to help others.”

CBAW: How do you think CBAW programs help with combating loneliness and helping people feel like they belong?

JM: “On the basics of the logistics of being able to find a community with just a Wi-Fi connection, that’s amazing. The success of the model for workshops and classes being online is a great reminder of how resilient we are as a community.”

CBAW: For the non-believers out there, what message do you have for them?

JM: “For the people I’ve met who had an opposition to art and writing my advice is to try it. If it’s not for you that’s ok. But if you hang out and build some community. Those are skills you can take with you to any hobby you want.”

Joe Merritt Artwork

Find Joe online on Instagram at both @joemerrittart and @woodbonestudio. Below is an excerpted section of our In This Together gallery page featuring Joe’s work. You can join Joe on the second and last Wednesdays of the month (at 7 PM Eastern Time) for our Visual Art Program.