Last updated on October 13th, 2021 at 07:15 pm
Ellen Homb believes in the power of art in education, in life and in the community. As a professional graphic designer and owner of her own Milwaukee-based company, 2-Story Creative (formerly e & Company), she has made some facets of art a part of her everyday life.
Her clients include the Milwaukee Brewers, Metropolitan Milwaukee YMCA, Schwaab Inc., the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Revere Data, Ares Management and the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders.
In addition, it has become Homb’s passion to see that the children of her community are given the same opportunities she had. Since 2005, Homb has served as president of the board of directors for Arts@Large, a nonprofit organization that introduces art into the classrooms and pairs it with academics to enhance the lives of students inside and outside the Milwaukee Public Schools District.
“I think it’s important for anyone to give back to the community,” Homb said. “I have always been a believer in public education and in particular MPS. I don’t think that you need to have children in MPS to be concerned or want to get involved in elevating the educational process there.”
Kimberly Abler, currently the art curriculum specialist for MPS, and Teri Sullivan, a former nonprofit consultant who previously served the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee, created Arts@Large in 2001 as a program that helped teachers connect art to academics.
The organization originally was federally funded through the U.S Department of Education and grew out of an application for a grant entitled Cultural Partnerships for At-risk Youth. It was piloted in four MPS middle schools for one year, and the program’s initiative was to connect teachers to artist partners in the community, weaving the arts through all academic curriculums.
“The name of the program kind of became synonymous with the name of the grant,” Abler said. “It wasn’t a very appealing name, and Ellen was a crucial part in branding our new name and image.”
According to Sullivan, Arts@Large provides professional development for classroom teachers, teaching them how to use the arts in the classroom.
Federal funding for the program ran out in late 2004, but Sullivan and Abler refused to let the program die.
“It was clear that there was support for the program from the community,” Abler said. “It was really Teri’s vision and leadership that pushed us to become a nonprofit.”
In 2005, Arts@Large became a nonprofit organization, and Homb was appointed as the president of its board of directors.
“When Teri came to me and asked me to help them with their collateral material, I said I would love to do that, but I want to take that one step further,” Homb said. “I donated those services. When Teri explained Arts@large to me, I thought, ‘Wow, this is really something that, as an artist, as a business person, and then as somebody who is interested in becoming involved in the community, in particular MPS, it seemed like a perfect fit.'”
According to Homb, it was a “no-brainer” when Arts@Large made the switch to become a nonprofit that she would take over the role as president.
The small working board functioned mostly as a support group at first, Homb said.
“Because Arts@Large was already established, and they had such a great model, I believe our role was there to support what they had already established, because nothing needed to be fixed,” Homb said.
Homb’s major role was to provide a contact list and a network of support for the organization.
Arts@Large is currently serving children in 11 schools in the Milwaukee area. The main focus of Arts@Large has been on MPS schools with children in kindergarten through eighth grade, but the organization is starting to open up the model to private schools in the area and in the past has functioned in a few area high schools.
Homb continues to design all of the graphic materials that Arts@Large needs pro-bono. Her company is responsible for branding the Arts@Large logo.
She encourages other Milwaukee-area business leaders to find something they are passionate about, pursue it and get involved.
“It takes a whole community’s involvement in order to make change and see change take shape,” Homb said. “It’s important for everyone to give back. We’ve given back in time, in resources and financially. It’s important for it to be a well-rounded experience for everyone involved.”