The Artful Life
As a child Diana Ellis Smith’s sat listening to broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City from her mother’s radio. Sounds of her father’s baritone ukulele and her mother’s singing are only pieces of the musical notes her childhood orchestrates.
Growing up she attended operas, took piano and ballet lessons. Before she was five, she recalls sitting beside her grandfather, a pianist, while playing a melody. “When I was very young he would sit down at the piano and have me pick out things,” she recalls. He was just one of seven siblings, each playing their own musical instrument.
She was living the arts. Now she’s preserving them.
It only made sense she’d become a board member of the Utah Symphony/Utah Opera for 12 years and an honorary chair for ten.
Since 2009, she’s been serving as a trustee on the Board of Trustees for Phoenix Art Museum. This year she’s serving as Chairperson for the pARTy gala, held November 3, at the Phoenix Art Museum. The black tie dinner plays a vital role in supporting the museum’s programs and exhibitions. Over the past years, the event has raised over 9 million dollars.
As a lifelong patron, Diana knows that the museum is more than a place housing magnificent works of art. “A strong arts element in a community helps bring people to that community. It helps them decide whether they will live there or not.” It’s a cornerstone she’s working to keep.
Diana, herself a former college professor, knows that while art is important it’s a subject that often suffers in a school system’s budget. “We have to provide opportunities to fill in those blanks for those who depend on a museum for their contact with the arts,” Diana says.
But the museum’s not just a place making artful statements. It’s enriching lives. “You can learn about yourself as you become acquainted with the arts. We all need that.” Diana says. She feels strongly that it’s what keeps people connected to one another.
In a world largely dependent on electronics, there’s something to be said for those sitting inside a theatre or walking the exhibit halls. “The interaction with a real place, real performers happening at that time is something we lose sight of it we’re not careful,” Diana says. “Some people forget that there’s conversation and a lot else going on that’s worthwhile,” she says.
Being physically a part of art is both rewarding and irreplaceable. You can exchange ideas and participate in what’s going on around you. Whether it’s sitting inside a 300 seat theatre or strolling through a gallery, you’re changed simply by being present.
Of course, Diana says art helps provide personal balance along with other interests. “I think that’s extremely important and I think that a lot of people are losing that in their lives because they are so focused on careers.” It’s about living a quality life that brings personal joy and fulfillment.
Since 1959 Phoenix Art Museum continues to bring together art from around the world through its exhibits, collections, live performances, independent films and educational programs that help enrich people lives. “There’s a type of art to suit everyone. You could never be bored, even if that were the only thing you ever did.” Diana says.
She’s doing it because the museum matters in peoples’ lives. And, it’s what brings her joy, knowing she’s connecting people with themselves and others through great art. “Some things make your heart sing and some don’t. Doing things like this does for me.”