Ella Bond Johnston was born and raised in Webster, Indiana and taught in several local schools. The introduction of art in the school curriculum in 1886 sparked her lifelong love of art, and she quickly became one of its most ardent advocates, not only in the school but in the community as well.
In 1898, along with William Dudley Foulke and Strickland Gillilan, she was one of the founders of the Richmond Art Association. She was its president for 14 years and its director until her death. During this period, the Art Association acquired a home, first a gallery in Morton High School, then its present facility, McGuire Hall attached to the High School. She felt it was imperative that art be available to students of all ages.
Under Mrs. Johnston’s direction, the collection grew to become one of the finest small collections in the country, including not only the works of local artists of the Richmond Group, but pieces from around the world. In 1909, she organized the Indiana Artists’ Traveling Exhibit and sent it to smaller cities around the state, and encouraged the other large cities in Indiana to do the same. Additionally, she served as chairman of the Art Department of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs from 1912 to 1916, and President Wilson selected her to be the Senior Docent in the Art Galleries of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915.