Gallery 53 has been a steadfast presence in Meriden over the years, remaining an important part of downtown through various revitalization efforts. For a remarkable 115 years now, the nonprofit organization has been a beacon for the arts. It’s an enviable resiliency and commitment to the Silver City that deserves continued recognition and support.
For a long time now, artist Ellie Bender has played an important role in Gallery 53 as it continues to play an important role in Meriden. She has, as a recent Record-Journal story noted, been the winner of 125 national and regional awards over 25 years. Her work, described as contemporary realism, has appeared in galleries in New York and Massachusetts, as well as here in Connecticut. She worked as a commercial artist for 35 years in the fashion industry and followed up as a teacher and portrait artist.
“Ellie exemplifies what a Meriden artist is,” observed Sandy Goodyear, Gallery 53’s executive director, who went on to explain what that means. “She’s taught art with adult education, privately and in the gallery. She’s been a living part of Meriden’s arts culture and well respected artistically and personally.”
Last year, Bender was named to Meriden’s Hall of Fame. She was born in Meriden, went to city schools and continues as a city resident. The Hall of Fame entry notes that her work “captures the essence of the individual through her meticulous attention to detail.”
Now another honor is in store: the celebration of her 95th birthday with an event at Gallery 53 next month. A display of her portraits will be part of the occasion.
“She’s been an influence in my life for as long as I can remember,” said daughter Christine Webster. In 2014, Webster and Bender opened Gallery 53’s first mother-daughter show, in time for Mother’s Day. “There aren’t a lot of mother/daughter artists in town,” observed Bender at the time.
The celebration is scheduled for Oct. 14, from 2-5 p.m., and while it’s by invitation, a large gathering is anticipated. “She’s something to celebrate,” said granddaughter Kelly Webster, as quoted in the recent story. We find it easy to agree with that observation.