As President of Dawn M. Ellis & Associates, LLC, Ellis weaves the skills of researcher, consultant, and multidisciplinary artist to improve work for the public good, particularly around arts and culture, access, learning, and social justice. Groups such as the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, National Endowment for the Arts, Arts Education Partnership, and VSA arts work with Ellis to facilitate leadership and learning communities. The Ford Foundation turned to Ellis to research and jumpstart their first arts and education initiatives and are now leaders in arts integration connected to urban reform. Ellis empowers states and their constituents (including Tennessee, Wyoming, Rhode Island, and Connecticut) to see and improve education systems.
Research publications include: For the Greater Good: A Framework for Advancing State Arts Education Partnerships (National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, 2003); Community Schools of the Arts: An Arts Education Resource for Your Community (Americans for the Arts, 2003); and A Broad Brush: Access and Arts Education Insights from School Districts (VSA arts, 2004). In addition, Ellis served as the primary researcher for Gaining the Arts Advantage: Lessons from Districts That Value Arts Education (President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, Arts Education Partnership 1999), the first nationwide inquiry into school district strategies for sustaining arts education. Her publication Ready, Set, Grow! arising from a statewide needs assessment led Tennessee to garner the top rated U.S. Department of Education grant in its category to start Value Plus, an education reform initiative.
Current research projects include serving as a critical friend for the education and leadership work of Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC and mentoring and providing evaluation assistance to partnership between Delaware Theatre Company and Ferris School for (Adjudicated) Boys. As “reflector-in-residence”, Ellis facilitated the 2008 National Assembly of State Arts Agencies annual arts education professional development gathering and has begun work with a statewide arts education coalition in Alabama for 2009. Artistically, Ellis is refining a new performance piece with poet/ researcher Marv Klassen-Landis inspired by their work with young people and sings symphonic works.
Ellis serves on the founding editorial board of The Teaching Artist Journal and the board of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra. Recent service includes serving on the Delaware State Arts Council as Chairman of the Grants and Programs Committee and participation with an Aspen Institute think tank to envision a national music service initiative. At home in Delaware, she leads an arts integrated life with husband John Novotny and their young twin boys, Miles and Theodore.