About the Artist
Lisa Brehm Ellis is a quilt artist, teacher, and lecturer living in the Washington, DC, area. She is deeply inspired by the philanthropic spirit of her parents, William (Bill) and Delores (Dee) Brehm. Bill and Dee dedicated their lives to finding a cure for diabetes and advocating for positive changes for those living with the disease. Dee was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a teenager in 1949 and remarkably lived another 70 years, to the advanced age of 91. She leaves a legacy that will continue to inspire long after her passing in 2022. Lisa describes her mother as a true testament to embracing the richness and possibilities of life while navigating the difficulties of being dependent upon insulin to live.
Lisa’s intimate connection to type 1 diabetes therefore began at a very young age, and she witnessed its many challenges. She recalls her childhood being marked by the constant fear of her mother having dangerously low blood glucose at any time and the vital need for a rapid response. The continual attention to mealtimes and food intake, the finger pricks, and the injections painted a vivid picture for Lisa of the complexities of daily life with type 1 diabetes.
Bill and Dee Brehm’s desire to change the landscape of life with diabetes set a course for their many philanthropic endeavors. Their substantial contributions and visionary leadership paved the way for the establishment of the Brehm Coalition and the Brehm Center for Diabetes Research at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI. During visits to the university with her parents, Lisa recalls encountering the Gifts of Art Program, a transformative initiative bringing art and music into the patient experience within the hospital.
Inspired by those experiences, Lisa devoted herself to creating opportunities for fellow artists through the curation of therapeutic art installations in hospitals across the country. This commitment led to a significant milestone when she helped establish the Arts and Healing Program at the Inova Schar Cancer Institute, where Lisa now serves on the Executive and Art Selection Committees for the initiative.
Lisa’s academic career led her to earn advanced degrees in mathematics and computer science. For 23 years, she served as an engineer and executive in the defense and information technology industry. Her retirement in 2003 allowed her to dedicate herself to volunteer work and her passion for the arts. In 2010, Lisa founded her own venture, Giving Back Technology. This company provides information technology services to nonprofit museums, galleries, and art organizations, bringing together her love of technology and service to the nonprofit arts community.
Learn more about Lisa and view her textile art at https://ellisquilts.com.
On the Cover: “Cairns: Peace and Harmony”
The rich tapestry of this quilt provokes introspection and, like much of Lisa’s artwork, reflects themes of faith and life’s profound experiences, encouraging observers to reflect on their own journey of growth and healing. Cairns are stacks of rocks used as navigational aids for sojourners, typically located at intersections where someone may be unsure of their next steps. Cairns have been used since ancient times and are thought to represent calmness, balance, and grounding.
The following is a description of the artwork on the cover of this issue of Diabetes Care, titled “Cairns: Peace and Harmony,” as written by the artist: This artwork holds a significant place in my collection, as it was specially conceived for an art exhibition I cocurated during the challenging times of the pandemic. The exhibition, aptly titled “Backyard Escape,” traveled to various hospitals, aiming to provide solace and tranquility to patients amid uncertainty. At the heart of the artwork lies a distinct visual narrative—the imagery of cairns, symbolic of stacked rocks, serves as a personal emblem deeply intertwined with my own odyssey. The cairns represent a connection to my inner self and intend to forge a meaningful link with fellow sojourners on their respective paths.
Through her textile art, Lisa Brehm Ellis invites viewers to engage with rich imagery and forge connections with spirituality, personal reflection, and shared human experience.