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Beloved Victoria artist and teacher, Ellie Poirrier, dies

By BY APRILL BRANDON - ABRANDON@VICAD.COM
May 10, 2010 at 12:10 a.m.
Updated May 11, 2010 at 12:11 a.m.

At the end of a 2-day art camp, instructor Ellie Poirrier gets a warm hug from Miranda Brown. Poirrier died of a stroke Monday.

For most of the last two decades of her life, Ellie Poirrier spent her days combining her two passions - children and art - through teaching.

"She was the most generous and wonderful woman in the world. She loved children and she loved art," her husband, Marcel Poirrier, said. "It was her life."

Poirrier, of Victoria, died Monday from a stroke. She would have turned 67 today.

A prominent figure in the local art community, she gave private art lessons and taught at the Victoria Art League. She also operated a free art camp in the summer for children who couldn't afford art lessons.

Debbie Rodriguez, whose home-schooled daughter took art lessons from Poirrier for 11 years, described the teacher as nurturing and personable.

"You could just meet her and she would just be your best friend. She was a friend to everybody," Rodriguez said. "She was an amazing woman, a Godly woman, and the art community is really going to miss her."

In high school during the 1960s, Poirrier studied under a well-known art teacher and artist and then moved to Corpus Christi to study art at Del Mar College. She did not anticipate the high cost of tuition, though, and realized she couldn't afford it. However, her husband used the signing bonus from his new job to pay for a year of lessons under Corpus Christi artist Ann West.

Eventually, Poirrier's art career came full circle and she herself became the teacher.

"A mediocre teacher can teach someone to copy," Poirrier once said of her job. "A really good teacher can teach them techniques and let them go on and fly."

Called Mrs. Ellie by her numerous students, Poirrier also made it a point to make art lessons available to everyone.

In 2009, she led a free art camp at the Victoria Art League for children from downtown Victoria neighborhoods.

"It's for the kids in this neighborhood and in Silver City that see others getting to do stuff that they wish they could do," Poirrier said in a 2009 Advocate article about the camp. "All year, they see their peers, their playmates and other kids in their class get to go to dance, piano lessons and art lessons - and they don't. I have done this in this neighborhood because this is a neighborhood that is struggling. I am giving them an opportunity to find out if they are artists."

While Poirrier's art skills were impressive, it was her skill with children that was even more incredible, Rodriguez said.

"Her kids meant a lot to her," she added. "She was planting those seeds. She always encouraged them and loved what they did."

But it wasn't just children who Poirrier nurtured as artists. Tina Kidder, who has known Poirrier for 10 years, took watercolor lessons from her for two years.

"A lot of people in the community studied under her," Kidder said. "The art community, as well as the community at large, has lost a very good friend and talented artist."

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