After 23 years with the Mizel Museum, Ellen Premack their brilliant Executive Director is retiring to open the door to her next great adventure. The Jewish-centered Museum which was started by Rabbi Stanley Wagner of the BMH Congregation and Larry & Carol Mizel in 1982, has thrived and evolved in the last couple of decades due in part to the precise and dedicated nurturing of Premack.
Ellen has helped the 30+ year old Museum create a "roadtrip" through Jewish life. Along with it's two other entities Babi Yar Park (where people can reflect on past inhumanities in silence) and The CELL (Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab), The Mizel Museum developed more visibility to serve even a larger and more powerful role in the community. Ellen says: "Through the cutting edge exhibitions and educational programs, we have opened minds, changed attitudes and together discovered paths that connect our world through respect for common humanity."
Ellen Premack, whose official last day is June 30, 2015, committed herself to "teaching the larger community about culture and connecting, and the importance of people knowing who each other are." She has also stayed true to her three favorite interests: Art, Animals (Premack adheres to a strick vegetarian diet), and Aviation... having earned her Certified Private Pilots (single engine) License.
Ellen takes pride in the contributions she made to help all three unique entities blend together well, and says, “Because they represent how the museum’s history has come full circle.”
Ellen leaves with an optimistic outlook of the world.... but is unafraid to express her views and ideas on how to continue to make change happen. She cleared any hurdles placed before her and loved the challenges she was given, but realized you can't be in two different worlds at the same time. It's time for her to go do what her heart tells her to do - which is just breathe and enjoy what she loves. Ellen it's your time to be a freewheeling bird and do all the things your fun-loving heart desires... You can be assured Ellen Premack will be navigating her own ship!
(On April 23, 2015, the Scientific & Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) proclaimed in its Resolution #15-09 that Ellen Premack was worthy of recognition because of her efforts and her leadership as an educator, community collaborator and innovator; and expresses it's sincere appreciation to Ellen for her advancement of the arts and science within the "District" and beyond.)
How are you feeling now that you have made the decision to retire?
Fantastic! It has been a long time coming in a 2 year plan for me. It seems we dedicate our lives to something we feel is important and that can run its course. I am ready to move on to another life. I have a lot of things I still need to accomplish for myself and the world.
What do you feel was your greatest accomplishment as Executive Director of the Mizel Museum, etc.?
Keeping the Museum vibrant, in the public eye and moving toward important and significant impact/measurements through the years. Teaaching about the Holocaust and multiculturalism and knowing that the world keeps changing and people need a huge understanding of each other to be equipped to carry on properly.
What will you miss the most?
Nothing. I will not miss any part of my job. I am glad to depart from the administrative elements that are consumed by an Executive Director - and back to my own creativity!
I was an art teacher in my early years and now I can get back to bronze-casting, weaving, paper-making, needlepoiting, ceramics and glass-work. Those are the areas I will focus on in a fun way!
I am not planning on leaving important people and friendships behind, so I won't miss the people who are significant to me. They will remain in my life.
I don't think we need to or expect to miss things. If we want them in our lives, we can hold on to them or get them back.
How has the Museum and the community changed since the 1980's?
It’s much more hip, more cool and modern than it was 30 years ago. It’s rolling and changing with the rest of culture because it needs to so that it doesn’t become outdated. It needs to appeal to all generations, including our young community.
Tell us about your plans right after your retirement?
Charlie and I bought a house this week - in Santa Fe, New Mexico and will be moving there in phases during the summer! We will be unpredictable in Santa Fe and in our travels to come! We will enjoy the day and have the patience yet the excitement to see what comes our way and take-in on it. We do not plan everything... Sometimes just letting it come your way and seeing the opportunities that are in front of you are the way to go. The fun part is that you have to SEE the opportunities and not let them pass you by.
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
Saving animals, flying airplanes, gardening, caring for our aviary and birds, bee hiving, making art and traveling. I am certain I will be involved in the museum world in Santa Fe... We will always collect art and support the arts and artists! Santa Fe is the perfect place to live this kind of life and integrate or not into what our values are. I am certain that I will be with my son, family and friends in a place of contentment…I already am.
You made the decision over 40 years ago to become a Vegetarian. There are so many temptations around to eat meat, how do you deal with that?
My decision to become vegetarian was based on a situation that happened to me in 1973. I opened up a hamburger that had unprocessed meat where the veins and make-up of the animal were revealed. I recognized that I was not eating meat, but rather an animal itself. It made me stop and think about the animal birth, life, raising, it’s consciousness and death that we cause to come upon it. We only see these animal’s as a food source and economics. My decision to remain vegetarian is so simple: I cannot eat a living creature that has been killed. It is not civilized, not necessary and not palatable. It is death and destruction and just a facet of man’s inability to rise and evolve.
There are no temptations for me at all. I simply order food that has no animal by-products and is plant-based.
To avoid Animal cruelty and for reasons of animal compassion. Our system of killing is not necessary for human survival.
There is no actual need to kill animals for human survival. We are just used to American consumerism and bad habits. We tie it back to tradition or “it has always been done that way” That does not make it right! Humans are far departed from the living animal, looking into its eyes and understanding its life. We ignore the reality of slaughterhouses and factory farms and the world of food economics. It’s a sickening part of humanity on the entire earth.
How old were you when you first knew you loved the arts and wanted to make it a life-long journey?
Maybe 8-10. I grew up in South Dakota where there were long cold winters. We would sit at the kitchen table and make art from boxes of glitter and scrap paper and stuff my mom had saved so that we could have our creative time, or at least it would keep us busy so she could get her work done. Our family had a gallery in the kitchen - a simple wire that we attached our pictures and paintings from school and all our projects. So our kitchen was like a family gallery. I knew I would go into the arts when I won a high school arts competition with a watercolor painting but I did not care much about the major subjects in high school…just the arts. I have always been interested in textiles, beautiful objects and found, unusual objects. People have too much of a tendency to throw away “things” that can be used, function and have great intrinsic insight and stories to them. I recognized and acted on that back in my high school years.
What do you think is the key to happiness?
Love, contentment, knowing yourself, doing the "right thing”, keeping it simple as you yourself need it to be, being a good person who keeps their conscious clean, and learning the lessons as you grow. I don't rely on living in the past and am a person who looks to the day - and forward.
Everyone has times of trouble or negative experiences. It’s part of life. Just learn from those times and become new.