IAIA - Institute of American Indian Arts

Barbara J. Ells

Barbara was born and raised in New Jersey. She has a Bachelor of Science in Early Children Education from Wheelock College in Boston, MA, and taught first grade in several areas of the U.S. With her husband of 51 years, the family lived in several areas of the U.S. as well as in Germany. While raising her family, she was active in each of their communities in both political as well as Women’s issues including opening and teaching in three different Head-Start pre-schools, establishing and staffing a Safe House for Women and Children in Terre Haute, IN, as well as a day-care center for these children. In addition, Barbara organized the first Recycle Center in one of her communities and became a Girl Scout leader and substitute teacher in another.

Her political interests and other activities include:

  • Co-Chair of the Indianapolis chapter of the Young Democrats of America while in Indianapolis, IN
  • Coordinator of the Woman’s Caucus focused on recruiting of young women for the Democratic Party
  • Club Treasurer of the Indiana state chapter of the National Federation of Democratic Women while in Terre Haute, IN
  • President of the German-American Club while in Wiesbaden, Germany, and member of this club while in Munich, Germany
  • Active member of the Woman’s National Democratic Club while in Lafayette, IN
  • Active in the early days of the National Council of Women’s Organizations in 1984 while in Boulder, CO
  • Active member of the Women’s Environmental & Development Organization in the early 1990’s

It was the family’s move to Boulder, CO, that initiated her interest in the vast beauty of the Southwest U.S. and Native American Arts and Crafts. It was at this time that Barbara and her family began a lifelong interest in this area and supporting its art forms. Her numerous travels allowed her to meet various American Indian artists, including Amado Pena and R.C. Gorman, and to understand, appreciate and collect many art objects from the Southwest.

People, worldwide, have amazing stories to tell through their various creative arts. It is so very important that we encourage all aspects of this creativity. We must preserve the past, encourage the present and enrich the future for generations to come.