As different as each piece is, Beller’s work puts forth a steady sense of joy and abandon. You see an assured feeling of creative expression, and the richness of her colorful work makes an “I’m happy to be alive” statement.
Ellen Beller has survived serious battles with breast cancer and a brain tumor, and she has emerged with a strong resolve to not let anything stop her from living her best life.
Ellen can be seen around town often attending charitable functions and art events – as well as consistently doing volunteer work to help others. Her volunteer work ranges from teaching English to New Americans - to giving and raising thousands of dollars for the Allied Jewish Federation campaigns - to shooting complimentary photographs for the Denver Academy of Torah (even though she has no children there) – to faithfully dropping off all of her magazine subscriptions at the Cancer Care Center each week for patients to enjoy.
Today, Ellen Beller is enjoying good health, and everything else that is in full bloom in her life. High on her list right now is her passion for the art she creates, the people she loves to help, and the joy she feels over her good fortune to be living a full and happy life. Ellen Beller gratefully declares: "I got a second chance to do whatever I want to do!"
Ellen, I first met you at the annual event for Breast Cancer - the wonderful “Day of Caring” created by Sue Miller (another one of our Have You Mets’); what charitable organizations are you involved with at this time? National Women’s Philanthropy Board of the United Jewish Communities; National Board of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency; Board Chair of the Mizel Art & Cultural Center; Co-Chair of the Jewish Women & the Arts event; Past president of the Colorado Agency for Jewish Education; Founder B’nai Tzedek a collaboration between the Colorado Agency for Jewish Education & Jewish Community Foundation.
You attend many events each year, what are some of your favorites? This year, the Mizel Art and Cultural Center at the Jewish Community Center had an amazing film festival; sometimes it’s just nice to sit back and be entertained.
What do you consider your proudest achievement? Awards I won for my art as a child and young adult.
You are a breast cancer survivor and also had to go through brain surgery to remove a tumor, how are you doing, and what gave you the most strength during those difficult times? I ‘m fine, I had a great doctor, Rob Rifkin, who told me: “Beller we are going to kick ass!” - So I signed up for the program - that and a lot of (legal) drugs. I also watched my mom die as a child, and I knew I had no recourse but to fight.
In addition to being a survivor and a woman of strength, you are an accomplished artist. Several articles have been written about your work and your talents. How busy are you right now with your artwork? I have four shows coming up, and I am learning how not to put things off until the last minute. I also learned that life never goes according to plan, so allow for enough time.
What impact do you think the new additions made to the Denver Art Museum have had on our city and the Denver art scene? I was a docent at the Museum before I got sick, and I know that we missed many large shows due to the space constraint. I think the addition put us on the map; there was a huge article in the New York Times last week, and we were included.
What style do you consider your work to be? Definitely contemporary.
What special techniques do you use in your work? Lately I have been using photo silkscreen. It gives my pieces an added dimension.
Do you have to be in a certain "creative" mood to create your pieces? When I run in the morning, I usually design in my mind. It's my quiet time to myself to really think. Of course, it always looks better in my mind.
Where can people see your art pieces? The Singer Gallery at the Jewish Community Center on April 18th, the Jewish Women and the Arts Show on April 29th; and I am working on some things for the Curtis Art and Humanities Center.
Is there a magazine or publication you can’t live without? People Magazine, - talk about real escapism; I don’t event know who half the people are anymore, but I know I can read it in 58 minutes.
Is there a book you have read that really inspired you that you can recommend to others? I loved The History of Love by Nicole Krauss; and last night, I saw the movie The Namesake, but the book is better and is also on my all time favorite list
Who is the most interesting person you have ever met? I would have to say my art teacher as a child, Ann Adler. She taught me to believe in myself and love the creative side of me even if no one understood it.
What do you consider a priceless gift? Time.
What is your fondest childhood memory? My birthday parties at the beach club - I was born in July. And going to work with my dad. He was in the grocery business, and we got to decorate cakes in the bakery and then eat all the icing.
What is something your parent’s taught you that you have never forgotten? Anyone can say anything, but it’s your actions that count.
Do you have a quote or saying that has helped guide you through life? “Someone is always better looking, more talented, wealthier - so just concentrate on being who you are.”
Is there something you still want to learn how to do? I always am learning, I always buy books on projects that I am going to someday make; I have a very large book shelf.
What is your biggest fear? I won’t accomplish all that I want to.
What should we all be working on these days to make our country better for future generations? Last year I bought a Hybrid SUV. My boyfriend, Jack, likes to kid me that it was so expensive that I paid for 23 years worth of gas. I would like to see us be less energy dependent and have more manufacturing brought back to this country.
How do we get our young people interested in charitable work and giving back to the community? With several of my friends, we brought a program, B’nai Tzedek, to the Jewish community. The program, first of all, is fun and teaches you to build for the future with your own endowment money. I stress “own” because it’s far easier to give away other people’s money. When it’s your money, the decisions are more meaningful. I strongly believe that unless we endow our non-profits, there might not be a future for some of these organizations.
Where is your focus these days; and what’s up in the future for the talented Ellen Beller? I’m trying to experiment more in my art. I need to go to the next level and concentrate on showing my pieces in different arenas.
How would you like to be remembered by future generations? Someone who cared about the future of other people and was creative and forward thinking.
Ellen’s Community Work & Recognitions (partial listing): Featured Artist in the Colorado Jewish Artists Guild of the Mizel Museum; featured in the 3rd annual Jewish Women in the Arts Show; Allied Jewish Federation honored her with its “Young Leadership Award” in 1992; Co-Chair of AJF’s “Super Sunday” in 1993; United Jewish Appeal’s “Young Leadership Cabinet 1990-1996; Wexner Scholar in 1994; Ellen brought the “Florence Melton Mini School Program” to Denver; Member of the Council of Jewish Federations General Assembly; President of CAJE and the recipient of their 2001 “Spirit of CAJE” Award; Allied Jewish Federation 2002 Women’s Campaign Chair; “Day of Caring” for Breast Cancer committee member from it’s inception.