top of page

Ellen M. Owens

Philadelphia, PA 19143


Tel: 814.880.0306

Professional info

Ellen Owens creates meaningful cultural experiences through making, curating, teaching about art and history.  As an arts leader, she facilitates community-building, collaboration, and continuous dialogue among diverse groups. 

Recent work experience

· Instruct mandatory graduate Museum Education course, “Museum Practicum,” a class that acquaints students
  with museum learning and interpretive strategies
· Introduce students to educational literature, local cultural resources, and diverse Philadelphia museums
· Assess numerous written assignments, oral communications, and multi-faceted final projects

· Host annual critiques of student work by area professionals and faculty



       -Contribute in visioning sessions to reshape Museum Studies curriculum and courses
       -Develop lasting mentorships: steered or chaired multiple thesis review committees

       -Collaborate with faculty to create cohesion amongst courses; leverage connections with local museum leaders

Lecturer, University of the Arts

2012 - present
Philadelphia, PA

  • President, Emerging Arts Leaders: Philadelphia 12/15- present

  • Board Member, Arts & Business Council of Philadelphia 9/12-present

  • Vice-President/Membership Chair of Museum Council of Philadelphia & the Delaware Valley 3/09-present

  • Co-founder & curator, HomeSkooled Arts Gallery, 1/09-12

Honors & Awards


  • Co-presenter: Moore College of Art Leadership Conference 10/13

  • Solo presenter at Small Museums Association Conference 2/11-13

  • Panel presenter at Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums conference 4/08



  • Highest Academic Achievement Award, University of the Arts 2006

  • Graduate Assistantship Award, University of the Arts 2005-06

  • Graduate Fellows Award, University of the Arts 2005-06

  • Golden Key National Honor Society Scholar 2001-04

  • Schreyer Honors College Scholar,

  • Dean’s List 11/12 semesters, Pennsylvania State University 2000-04

  • Alice Swartz-Mattil Award, Art Education (faculty-nominated award), Pennsylvania State University 2003

2010 - present

2010 - present

Executive Director, Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

2009 - 2014

Manager of Education & Outreach, Philadelphia's Magic Gardens

Philadelphia, PA

· Oversaw all high-level decisions and mission fulfillment of the museum, community center, and gallery

· Grew Board of Directors, developed strategies for organizational growth through strategic planning

· Wrote grant proposals, organized campaigns/fundraisers, solicited donors, managed grant funds

· Hired and dismissed staff, administered performance reviews, developed HR policies

· Managed, balanced, and projected budgets; analyzed and controlled finances

· Oversaw all marketing, advertising, and public relations to garner local, regional, and international press

· Created and facilitated key public events, programs, and public representation of organization

· Built partnerships with other local and regional organizations including schools, businesses, and cultural groups

· Began first conservation efforts and protocols to protect permanent art installation

· Curated gallery exhibitions, created interpretive text, directed design
· Created and led tours of installations, public mural sites, and artist studio for all ages and special groups
· Created/designed the first interdisciplinary educational activities for gallery, classroom, and online use

· Managed interpretive staff, volunteers, and graduate-level museum education and exhibition internships



       -Created/monitored 3-year strategic plans and succession planning; grew from staff of 6 to 16
       -Tripled organizational operating budget, created financial reserves and year-end revenue surpluses, ended deficit

       -Raised development income by 98%, attracted first ongoing corporate sponsor and peer-reviewed awards,
         hosted sell-out fundraisers, garnered prestigious grant funds for board governance and conservation
       -Grew ongoing collaborations with local businesses, Thomas Jefferson Hospital, social service groups, and more

       -Showcased works by notable local, national, and international artists and community groups
       -Led tours for First Lady Michele Obama and her children, Mayor Michael Nutter, and the French Parliament

· Provided direction for Museum’s interpretive and education initiatives

· Organized and oversaw all of the Museum’s K-12 education, community, and adult education initiatives 
  such as hands-on workshops, tours, film series, and speaker programs
· Organized and facilitated large-scale public events, scheduled presenters

· Project-managed resident artists for large-scale public artworks and outreach based on the collection

· Developed and monitored budgets for education/public programs, tallied daily museum profits
· Assisted with grant writing and donor cultivation
· Supervised guide staff of 15+: trained, hired, scheduled, administered reviews, managed payroll, etc.

· Created and managed Volunteer Coordinator position and 20+ volunteers
· Led tours of collections, historic sites, and artist residency projects for all ages

· Developed evaluations, marketing, and documentation of programs

· Opened/closed museum, set security alarms, performed object inventory, scheduled gallery maintenance
· Created/designed educational activities for gallery, classroom, outreach, and online use; ran programs



       -Developed walking tour interpretation for artist piece in Independence Historic Park with National Park Service

       -Designed, oversaw, and implemented 7days of educational programs along 112 miles of the Schuylkill River
        with the Schuylkill River Sojourn

       -Facilitated key partnerships with local art, history, and science organizations

       -Published “Women of the APS, Vol. 2,” a set of biographies and portraits by students

       -Built and established successful core family programs

Manager of Education, American Philosophical Society Museum

2007 - 2009

M.A. in Museum Education,
GPA: 3.84/4.0


Certificate, Designing Leadership Program

University of the Arts


Philadelphia, PA

Bryn Mawr College


Bryn Mawr, PA


Pennsylvania State University


University Park, PA

B.S. in Art Education with emphasis in Museum and Cultural Institutions
B.F.A. with emphasis in Painting and Drawing

Schreyers Honors College Thesis UnderSkin: Intimate Organics
GPA: 3.87/4.0; in Majors: 3.88/4.0


Merle-Smith Director of Learning Programs, Penn Museum,
(University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology)

2014 - present
Philadelphia, PA

· Provide strategic guidance for major museum decisions as part of the Executive Leadership team

· Provide vision and direction for interpretive and education initiatives, including new permanent galleries 

· Oversee Museum’s K-12 education, adult groups, and accessibility initiatives such as workshops, tours, speakers
· Manage, balance, control, and project multiple department budgets

· Supervise and mentor 11 full-time staff/educators; oversee department with 60 volunteers, multiple interns

· Oversee Unpacking the Past, a 2.2 million dollar education program for ~10,000 local middle school students
· Communicate and collaborate with all museum departments and key University schools/centers
· Partner with Development Department to author grants and cultivate donors
· Partner with schools, libraries, and educational agencies for collaborative programs and ongoing partnerships
· Liaise with administrators, teachers, policy-makers, to grow and evaluate programs
· Promote educational programs in cooperation with Marketing and Public Relations

· Build and develop Group Sales Department, technology-based programs, and adult group offerings

· Create and host a 4-week full-time Museum Studies course for Chinese undergraduates from Jiangsu Province

       -Execute a significant pillar of the Museum’s strategic plan and the University’s directives involving
         public education programs for local, national, and global audiences
       -Host annual 600+ international student event with local dignitaries and mayor

       -Grew K-12 attendance 28% and grew Group Sales revenue (new department) 16% since 2015

       -Created and oversee new committee providing varied professional development opportunities for staff

       -Created critical partnerships with key UPenn schools such as Graduate School of Education and Penn Global

Wharton School of Business, IBM, Arts & Business Council of Philadelphia


Philadelphia, PA

Certificate, Nonprofit Executive Leadership Institute

bottom of page