Ryan Merriman’s portrait now hanging inside his alma mater, Choctaw High School
A version of this column appears in Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Ryan Merriman’s portrait hanging inside Choctaw High School
Column: The actor and Choctaw artist Kathryn Walker Richardson last week dedicated to his alma mater the near-life-size painting she created.
Last week, Choctaw artist Kathryn Walker Richardson and Choctaw-born and bred actor Ryan Merriman dedicated to the school district a near-life-size portrait she painted of him.
“Kathryn honored me with her talents to put me on the canvas there. It’s the first time I’ve ever had a painting done,” Merriman said, standing under the portrait now exhibited near his alma mater’s drama classroom. “I didn’t really know how big or extravagant it would be, and when I saw it, it was 5-(feet)-by-3-(feet) and beautiful and huge. It was an amazing compliment.”
“You can’t put anything like this in your house. That’d just be obnoxious,” the actor added, flashing his famous grin. “But we’re honored to have it here in C-town.”
In 2006-07, Richardson painted the portrait of a windswept Merriman standing in a golden field with the vast Oklahoma sky behind him for City Arts Center’s state centennial exhibition “Heroes and Outlaws: 100 Oklahomans by 100 Oklahomans.”
“He was already a star at that time,” Richardson said. “I was honored to get to be included in the show … so that’s how it started. And it has a life of its own almost.”
“We’re both from Choctaw, and that’s what makes it special. The painting is kind of coming back to its origins,” she added. “And it’s the two arts coming together: The performing arts and the visual arts.”
Since the centennial, the Stroud native has used the painting as a sample piece to show what she can do, but it needed a permanent home. Merriman’s mother, Nonalyn, wanted to find a public place to exhibit the portrait and approached the school district, which graciously accepted the gift. During a reception last week, family, friends and fans got their first look of the artwork on display on the still-shining white walls of the 4-year-old Performing Arts Center.
“I think it’s great that he remembers the school and the community and he hasn’t outgrown his roots. I think it’s pretty classy that he would take time and effort and donate something for the school,” said David Dooley, assistant principal at Choctaw’s freshman center, who taught Merriman as a seventh-grader. “He’s just a real good-down-to-earth person, and that’s good to see.”
New Choctaw High School Principal David Reid said he thinks the portrait can serve as a source of inspiration for students.
“The girls and the boys but especially the girls have been really excited about it,” said Reid, a fellow Choctaw High alumnus. “When they saw him here today … in between classes, they got on their cell phones and were calling their moms and dads and telling them they got to meet Ryan Merriman. It’s good. It lets the kids see what a student from this area can become.”
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