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Holladay Journal

Art imitates life: Driggs second-grader wins Reflections with sculpture made of ‘smashed things’

Apr 19, 2021 10:13AM ● By Heather Lawrence

Asher Merrick’s sculpture included all of his family members and fit the theme ‘I Matter Because….’ (Photo courtesy Caitlan Merrick)

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

Congratulations to Asher Merrick, a second-grader in Valene Ottosen’s class at Howard R. Driggs Elementary in Holladay, on his winning Reflections entry. Asher’s entry was a sculpture which won at several levels and is now advancing to the national Reflections contest. 

“The theme for this year was ‘I Matter Because…’ and that’s perfect for Asher. He’s a unique kid with strong opinions,” said Asher’s mom Caitlan Merrick of Holladay. 

Asher has an interesting hobby that he worked into his project: he loves smashing things. “I think he likes it both because it’s just fun to smash things, and also because he wants to know what’s inside,” Merrick said. 

“In the fall I knew he wanted to enter Reflections, and I told him he should write something because he’s a good little storyteller, but he wanted to make a sculpture. I thought it would be a fun after-school activity. So we got some broken electronics from Goodwill for him to use,” Merrick said.  

Merrick let her son break the old electronics down into smaller pieces and asked him what he’d make. “He said he wanted to make our family,” she recalled.  

Asher loved getting recognized at school as his entry kept winning and advancing to higher contests. “One day they said his name over the intercom at school because he was one of the winners, and he came home and was so excited about it. I was glad he’d gotten that positive recognition,” Merrick said. 

The theme ‘I Matter Because…’ and Asher’s repurposed electronics sculpture turned out to be well-suited to one another. Asher’s personal statement, which accounts for a big percentage of the Reflections judging, illustrated his thought process. 

“I matter because even though I’m the breaker in our family, I’m also the fun that puts us back together and makes things better after they’re broken,” Asher wrote. 

Though Reflections judging is anonymous, Merrick thought it would have been nice to for the judges to understand how much this sculpture reflects Asher and his personality. 

“For him to win was sweet because even though the judges don’t know him personally, this is a perfect theme for him. He’s loaded with strong opinions and emotions and he doesn’t hold back. That can be a challenge in school, so it was nice to have something where he was recognized positively,” Merrick said.  

This year students have been asked to be flexible and resilient in so many ways. Driggs PTA president Liz Shellum said programs like Reflections, which gives kids a creative outlet, are more important than ever. 

“The theme ‘I Matter Because…’ resonated with our students in ways we could never have expected when it was picked two years ago. Students created incredible works of art, music, literature, film and dance to show us that every person matters, in ways big and small,” Shellum said. 

Shellum said next year’s theme, “I Will Change the World by…”, is another timely one. “Our students will change the world in ways we can't predict, and it's going to be exciting to watch them solve some really complex problems.”   

To support Asher’s creativity, Merrick said she’ll continue to get him things like old VCRs and alarm clocks that he can smash up and explore, and hopefully one day he’ll learn how to put them together and maybe even create something amazing and new. 

“He likes to take things apart. He wants to know what’s inside,” Merrick said. “Even though now he doesn’t really understand how things work or how to put them back together, I think he dreams of making some new vision, some new machine with what he takes apart.” 

Shellum praised Asher and all the students who entered the contest. “Asher's piece of art shows that fresh perspective we need so much,” Shellum said. “We are immensely proud of him and of all the students who entered. It's been wonderful to celebrate students and their creations.”