Ellen Owens, director of Niagara University’s Castellani Art Museum, was a featured presenter at the American Alliance of Museum’s 2024 Annual Meeting and Expo May 16-19, in Baltimore, Md., a conference with more than 3,000 museum professionals in attendance. She is one of four educator-CEOs who discussed their experience as leaders in the museum field during a session entitled “Museum Educator to CEO: What We Bring to the C-Suite.”

Owens and executive directors Stephanie Fitzwater Arduini of the Seattle Children's Museum, Christy Coleman of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, and Ben Garcia of the American LGBTQ+ Museum discussed how they perceive their roles as leaders, how they see themselves contributing to and shaping the museum field, and what educators might bring to this particular moment in the field.

“In the last five years, the museum field has seen a remarkable and welcome change—boards are hiring many more educators as CEOs and presidents,” said Owens, noting that museum leadership typically came from a curatorial or business background. “Educators serve as bridges between museums and communities, inviting participation and creating connections between many different groups. Today’s successful museums consider their audiences as essential to their work, so those in educator roles often bring in important sensitivities for building meaningful partnerships, creating welcoming spaces, and reflecting diverse groups.”

Owens was named director of the CAM in October of 2021. In this role, she provides strategy and vision while leading fundraising and collaboration efforts. She also teaches museum studies at Niagara University, and sits on the executive committee for The Print Center board and the Frank Lloyd Wright Darwin Martin House board.

Owens graduated with honors from Penn State University, earning a B.A. in art education and a BFA in painting and drawing. She received her M.A. in museum education from the University of the Arts and executive leadership certificates from the Getty Leadership Institute, University of Pennsylvania, and Bryn Mawr College.