WE’RE SITTING ON bouncy stability balls in the loft of his studio off the Fayetteville square when artist Matt Miller tells me that he was once this close to becoming a financial analyst.
I’m sure my eyebrows furrow in that what-the-heck-are-you-talking-about way, because there’s nothing remotely “financial analyst” about Matt. For starters, he’s dressed in head-to-toe denim, and we’re surrounded by a hodgepodge of his large-scale abstract paintings—the kind of pieces that evoke philosophical questions, not the kind that hang in boardrooms. He’s calm and collected and he meditates and eats vegan burritos and co-owns a skateboard shop, and, you know, we’re sitting on bouncy balls. But if it weren’t for that rock-climbing trip eight years ago—when his brother gave him the what-for, telling him that if he worked in finance 80 percent of the time and did art 20 percent of the time, what would that make him?—Matt could very well have followed his finance degree straight to Wall Street.
Instead, he’s here. And the only thing “wall” and “street” about this new dad is the mural he’s currently painting on a huge swath of College Avenue. It’s a jolt of color on an otherwise forgettable asphalt-gray strip, an invitation, he says, to slow down and appreciate a moment of calm. He’s learned, these past eight years, that doing work like this—work that allows you to seek something deeper within yourself and reflect that back—is what feeds him.
“Where you put your time,” he says, bouncing on that ball, “is what you become.”
A few things that this artist can’t do without
1. Ozark Natural Foods’ vegan burrito
“Every morning, with my second Onyx coffee, black.” (1554 N. College Ave., Fayetteville; onf.coop)
2. Nova Color Artists’ Acrylic Paint
“It’s the best paint for everything—the best pigment, the best price. It’s so vibrant and strong. I won’t buy any other paint.” (novacolorpaint.com)
3. Helm boots
“They’re handmade in Austin, super high quality. I feel excited every time I put them on.” (Available locally at Mom & Pop Shoppe, 300 W. Mountain St., Fayetteville; momandpopshoppe.us.)
4. Headspace App
“Meditation is crucial to me for staying balanced. It’s all about filtering thoughts and letting them go—it’s a big capacity creator. If you wake up and just go, you’re constantly reacting instead of responding. It’s a tool to create space in your mind.”
5. The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents
“It helps you gain perspective on what is actually happening with your kids—it’s not as much a how-to as it is a developmental perspective. It advocates parental awareness.”
6. Chemex coffee maker
“It’s usually brewing Onyx or Arsaga’s roasts.” (chemexcoffeemaker.com)
7. Local art
“Other artists’ work is the art that makes me think. And local artists, they’re an expression of what your community is. I’m collecting local art—I’m after a piece by Jason Jones—but I also collect local work while I travel. I picked up some great pieces on a surf trip to Bali.” (artistjasonjones.com)
Check out Matt’s work in the wild—his mural, Peace Maker, can be seen on College Avenue in Fayetteville between Maple and North streets.