Ella Amelia Gardner
Born 1914 in Wingville, Wisconsin
Lived in Neillsville, Granton and Marshfield, Wisconsin
Died 2007 in Madison, Wisconsin
Ella Gardner was the daughter of farmers Gena (Helgeson) and Robert Haines, and a grand-niece of Wisconsin’s 24th Governor, John J. Blaine. She taught in a rural school for two years before beginning her formal art education at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1936. In 1937 she married fellow teacher Russell Gardner. The couple raised three sons, Russell Jr., Wayne, and Keith. They operated a dairy farm in Granton, Wisconsin, for forty years before moving to a smaller retirement farm in Marshfield, Wisconsin.
Her art career began in earnest in 1964 after her youngest son graduated from high school and left home to attend college. For forty years she was an active participant in the Wisconsin Region Arts Program, regularly exhibited her work at the Central Wisconsin State Fair in Marshfield, and received many awards. Her art was also exhibited in solo shows in Granton, Neillsville, Marshfield, Menomonie, Wisconsin Rapids, Fort Atkinson and Madison, including an exhibit in the Governor’s Office in Madison in 1983. In 1998 she published “A Celebration of Life,” a book featuring a selection of her paintings and drawings accompanied by personal narrative.
Gardner was a versatile artist who worked in many mediums, including oil, pastel, acrylic, mixed media, collage, watercolor, scratchboard, pencil, and ink; saying that “the subject matter often dictates the medium.” Much of her work explores aspects of rural Wisconsin life.
In 2008, the Ella Gardner Award was established by the Gardner family as part of the Wisconsin Regional Arts Program‘s Statewide Exhibit. The award recognizes exceptional artwork with a rural theme.