Board of Directors Highlight: Mary Ellison

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The Art in Action Board of Directors is comprised of a diverse group of dedicated, knowledgeable, and passionate leaders who feel strongly about the importance of empowering students through arts education. We are thankful for their ongoing commitment to our mission and unwavering support of all that we do.

Here, we highlight one of our Board Co-Chairs, Mary Ellison.


1) How did you first get involved with AiA (being taught?) 

My first exposure to Art in Action was through my kids when they were in elementary school. We had just moved to San Mateo from Columbus, Ohio where art was being taught weekly. I couldn’t believe California schools had no art teachers! Thank goodness for Art in Action.

2) How have you been involved with AiA as an adult (past and present)

Later, I was invited by an Art in Action board member to join her table at the annual fundraising luncheon, and so began my relationship with the organization, now 12 years strong! I started as a volunteer for the annual gala, then joined the staff as a pr/marketing consultant for four years, and am now Co-Chair of the Board of Directors. My involvement with Art in Action has been extremely rewarding.


3) Why do you think arts education is important for kids?

The arts should be as fundamental in a child’s education as reading, writing and arithmetic. They are just part of the equation that go into making each of us function as thoughtful, intelligent, creative, and happy adults. 

4) How do you think having art as a child impacted your life?

My mother was extremely creative as a cook and as a seamstress. She could feed an army with whatever was in the refrigerator and she could sew anything, from costumes to draperies to all of our clothes. My father loved the Old Masters, classical music and opera. When I was a kid, you couldn’t pay me to listen to opera but now I love going to live performances. When I was 13, I begged my parents to buy me a piano. I took lessons throughout high school and college. That same piano sits in my living room today.


5) Tell us a little about your current art- medium, inspiration etc.

Although I don’t paint, sing or dance (at least in public), I have a deep appreciation for all forms of art. I love plays, opera, all kinds of music and going to galleries and museums. The look and feel of my physical environment is very important to me. My friends tease me about how many changes the interior and exterior of my home has gone through (my husband rolls his eyes). I don’t stop until my environment reflects my own personal harmony, which I’m afraid can be in a state of flux.


6) Anything else to add about AiA, your experiences with art, value of art etc

Prior to our move to California, I worked at the Columbus Museum of Art, first in the Development Department, then managing Public Relations programs and finally as the Assistant to the Director. I have fond memories of my 15 years there. I learned so much about all aspects of museum life and was fortunate to meet and work with incredibly inspiring, interesting and smart people. One of my proudest moments was when my kids, then 3 and 5, referred to my place of employment as “their museum.” Because I was exposed to art and artists, my husband and I decided anniversary presents would be the purchase of a work of art. After 35 years of marriage, there’s not much wall space left! We’ve also bought some great pieces from the OBJECT:ART art auction.

I am proud to be associated with Art in Action. In addition to knowing what I do makes a difference in the lives of schoolchildren, it’s just a lot of fun to work with an incredible team of staff, board members, volunteers and supporters.