Ellen Snell is retiring after 23 years of service to the Arkansas City Area Arts Council.

Ellen Snell


“Retirement — it doesn’t seem day to day that it’s happening, but it is,” she said May 24.

“I’ve kind of worked my way through all the emotions of leaving a job that has made me so happy over 23 years.”

Tears might be part of the process, but Snell has plans to stay close to Ark City Arts in the years to come.

A reception for Snell will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. May 31 in the Burford Theatre atrium at the V.J. Wilkins Family Center for the Arts, located at 118 S. Summit St.

Ellen and her husband, Jean, have several grown children who live away from Ark City.

However, the couple intend to stay in Ark City since they are equal distance from their children. “This is home,” she said.

The Snells both turn 75 this year and also will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

Burford renovation

Snell has been involved in the Burford Theatre renovation project since its beginning in 2002, when the city and chamber of commerce asked the arts council to spearhead the project.

That involved a lot of hard work, including eliminating items that had been left in the theater for years.

But in recent years, the project has reached a point where events finally can be held at the theater again.

Just last summer, a new marquee was mounted on the front of the building. But work continues on the upper balcony and other areas.

Biggest accomplishment?

“I expect when people ask me that, they expect me to say the Burford Theatre,” Snell said.

“Obviously, that’s a huge accomplishment from a lot of people. But the biggest accomplishment is coming into a sports-oriented community — and understand I love sports as much as anybody does — and finding a place for arts and culture. That’s number one.”

Snell spoke of the project fondly, listing the number of sources of funding that were needed to bring the project to its current status.

“Number two is the fact that there are so many in our community and extended community that have been a part of this,” she said.

The theater features many plaques commemorating those who helped to make the project possible.

No regrets for Snell

When asked if she would have done anything differently, Snell paused briefly.

“When you build a house, you always think, ‘Oh, if I’d have put this over there…’ — there really isn’t very much of that,” she said.

“For most things that I’ve ever done, the journey has been the important part, but we have something that’s even bigger than the journey that people can appreciate.”

The theater currently is set up in such a way that it can accommodate many different kinds of events or parties.

“There’s just an infinite number of things that you can do,” Snell said.