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Ellie Schaul, born December 1, 1936, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of West Virginia’s most enduring artists. Her 2022 show at the Charleston Clay Center Juliet Art Museum, titled “Reimagining the Familiar, A Sixty Year Retrospective Exhibition,” underscores her long career as both an artist and an advocate for the arts.

Schaul began watercolor classes as a nine-year-old student at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. She continued her art studies at The Arnold School in Pembroke, Massachusetts, adding an interest in theater to her educational pursuits. After two years of study at New York’s Parsons School of Design, Schaul moved to West Virginia in 1956.

Schaul’s theater studies served as her gateway into Charleston’s active theater community in the 1950s and 60s. Though she had a full-time job as advertising director for Coyle and Richardson Department Store, Schaul began designing stage sets for the Kanawha Players—something she did for the next 10 years—as well as the Charleston Light Opera Guild and the Charleston Ballet.

Schaul took an active role in the 1963 West Virginia Centennial celebration, recruiting and working alongside women volunteers to outfit the 264-seat theater inside the Centennial Showboat Rhododendron. “The showboat was anchored at Port Amherst,” Schaul recalls. “With the support of Charlie Jones [Amherst Coal founder and CEO] and theater director Chris Ringham we painted scenery and surrounded the theater with custom-cut wood lace and hand-painted roses.”

In 1968, the Charleston Section of the National Council of Jewish Women undertook “Appalachian Corridors,” the first exhibition to expressly curate the work of Appalachian artists, at the urging of Schaul and fellow arts advocate Sherry Lovett. The exhibit brought together the work of artists from the 14 states of the Appalachian region for a juried show, and was followed by “Appalachian Corridors” II and III.

Beginning in 1982, Schaul served as gallery director for The Art Store in Charleston, which was owned by Sherry Lovett. Following Lovett’s death in 2008, Schaul continued to curate exhibitions by artists rooted in West Virginia. In 2009, she retired as Gallery Director Emeritus.

Schaul worked within other organizations as both artist and administrator, including Mountain Artisans, The Group, Sunrise Museums, Charleston Fund for the Arts, Kanawha Arts Alliance, and Allied Artists of West Virginia.

As to Schaul’s artwork, the Clay Center’s curator for the Juliet Art Museum, Elizabeth Simmons, says, “Ellie Schaul renders familiar objects and spaces through her own colorful, abstracted lens. Seemingly ordinary scenes are made special through her use of vibrant, unnaturalistic colors and exaggerated but identifiable forms. She works primarily in watercolors and oils, but also experiments in monoprints, collage, and sculpture, even decorating homewares and furnishings with lively patterns. Schaul often depicts abridged interior and exterior domestic views, construction scenes, and landscapes, reinvestigating the genres each time by employing a new style or motif. She fixates on certain subjects but remakes them, alternatively employing a more naturalistic or abstract style, frequently working in a series across a few years or a few decades.”

Schaul has exhibited across the state at universities and museums, as well as in Washington D.C., Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. She was awarded the 1985 West Virginia Juried Exhibition Governor’s Award, the top award given to artists in the show. Her artwork is included in the permanent collections of the West Virginia State Museum, the Juliet Art Museum, the Huntington Museum of Art, the University of Charleston, and West Virginia University Libraries.

She lives in Charleston with her husband Mark Schaul. They are parents to three children and grandparents to two grandsons.

This Article was written by Deborah J. Sonis

Last Revised on November 03, 2022

Cite This Article

Sonis, Deborah J. "Ellie Schaul." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 03 November 2022. Web. 22 May 2024.


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