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Volunteer Spotlight: Ellen Landau

Volunteer Ellen Landau

Get to know a little more about this month’s Volunteer Spotlight: Ellen Landau!

Where are you from?
Born and raised in Storm Lake, Iowa, but after college graduation moved to Geneva, Illinois, a far west suburb of Chicago, and lived there for 24 years.

How did you end up in Northwest Arkansas?
My daughter was a pole vaulter and was recruited by the University of Arkansas for their track and field program. We would drive from Chicago to Fayetteville to visit which is how we fell in love with the natural beauty of the area.

What have you most enjoyed about being a volunteer at Crystal Bridges?
Mostly, it’s the people I meet. Not just the staff and the volunteers, who are wonderful, but the museum guests as well. People associated with Crystal Bridges are a lively, interesting group and come from such diverse backgrounds. I enjoy meeting others and hearing their stories of what brought them to Crystal Bridges.

In addition to the people, of course, is the amazing art at Crystal Bridges and the Momentary. As a cart guide, I have the opportunity to learn about various pieces of art, the artists, their backgrounds, as well as the architecture and beautiful nature surrounding the museums. I feel very fortunate.

What’s your favorite artwork or space at Crystal Bridges and/or the Momentary?
My favorite open space at Crystal Bridges is standing in the Eleven restaurant, looking out over the water and the surrounding nature. Actually, just walking into the building makes me happy. It’s very difficult to choose a particular piece of artwork as a favorite as there is such a variety and I am attracted to so many pieces of art for very different reasons. I also find my tastes shift and evolve over time. My current favorite gallery is the contemporary wing because I find it most thought-provoking and expressive. For instance, you can’t stand in front of Mark Rothko’s Orange No. 210/No. 211 without feeling some strong emotion and contemplating your own meaning behind the piece. It’s engaging. I also very much enjoy the exhibits and architecture of the Momentary.

What do you do to relax?
I do yoga about three times a week, read every evening, and get out in nature as much as possible. Now that I’m no longer teaching full time, I can finally enjoy my mornings with a cup of coffee, sitting on my back porch, enjoying our surroundings.

What would an ideal day in Northwest Arkansas look like for you? 
An ideal day would definitely involve taking advantage of the incredible nature of this area as well as the impressive art. A perfect day would probably involve doing some outdoor activity in the morning, taking in a little art in the afternoon, and finishing the day with a good dinner at one of the many fine restaurants in the area.

What’s your secret super skill?
I play the piano, but it’s certainly not a “super” skill, just for my own pleasure and relaxation. I play a wide variety of music, everything from classical to The Beatles to Elton John to Frank Sinatra. And of course, Christmas carols during the holidays.

If you had three wishes, what would they be? 
The end of COVID, being able to hug people again, and to gather with friends and family.