After Nancy Merkling earned her associate’s degree in 1995 from McHenry County College, she recognized a common speed bump in the process of learning camera settings for many photographers. From this need to learn and teach, she wrote a series of highly-repeatable workshops that teach both the technical and artistic sides of photography in a way that makes sense and brings out the unique perspective of the photographer. She kicked off these workshops in 2008, and through their successes, she began working with a luxury vacation travel company teaching photography packages all over the world.
In 2011, Nancy designed, created, and continues to produces the highly successful art event 4th Fridays at The Starline Gallery in Harvard, IL, whose objective is to offer juried exhibits in both mixed medium and photography specific to regional artists. Today, 4th Fridays at The Starline Gallery welcome 600 – 1,000 people nine times a year with many driving from Chicago, Milwaukee and Madison. The event focuses on educating the community that it is their fiscal responsibility to support the arts through purchasing original art from local artists. This event has won “Best of the Fox” through the Northwest Herald for the last two years.
Nancy’s impact on the community starts with the influx of people she brings to Harvard. The City of Harvard Development Committee has asked Nancy to sit in on meetings for brainstorming due to their recognition of her impact through both her workshops and 4th Friday’s art event. Nancy also runs intern programs through her workshops that offer up-and-coming photographers the opportunity to work side-by-side with her on photo shoots, learning to assist in the workshops as well as the behind-the-scene duties for the 4th Fridays at The Starline Gallery art event.
With 4th Fridays, Nancy works tirelessly on growing her connections and raising awareness for the arts to not just stay alive but thrive in our community. She organizes over 100 volunteers with a heart for the arts who are trained and empowered to run their positions within the event, arranges musicians and jurors for each month, oversees the curating team for installation, mentors the creative team for the themed installation art project and more all while maintaining very high professional standard with her loving personal touch. Nancy’s efforts are proving to be highly successful in gathering people regularly in the name of the arts and to bring back the awareness of our NEED for the arts when art budgets are getting cut in our schools.
Nancy believes in the power of giving, volunteering, and serving in the community. She has also started a photography ministry at her church, works with other local art events, and shoots for the McHenry County Conservation District.