Arts scene owes a lot to Marian Berman [Ellicott City]

Don't let her diminutive stature fool you. For almost 40 years, powerhouse Marian Berman has been a tireless advocate for the arts in Howard County.

As owner of Galley 44 in Ellicott City, Berman helped customers find or frame the perfect art work for their homes and offices.

Her sharp attention to detail, warm personality and astute knowledge of the art world earned her a steady client base that she considered her extended family — some of whom were third generation customers.

It was not uncommon for Berman to personally hang art for her buyers, sometimes flying out of state to a client's home. Her corporate work included the public art installation in the new Medical Pavilion at Howard County on Charter Drive.

Community service was an integral part of the Galley 44 business model that included giving 10 percent of the store's gross profits back to the community. Whether she was hosting a fundraiser for an artist friend with late stage cancer or actively serving on the board of directors of Success In Style, Bright Minds Foundation, Shari's Promise and the Leadership Howard County's marketing committee, Berman was constantly giving of her time and talents to others.

Then on Feb. 8, 2012, days after hosting her daughter Tracie's baby shower, her life changed forever. Although she visited her doctor twice, Berman couldn't shake a prolonged bad cold so she called into work sick — a rare occasion for Berman.

When her employee couldn't understand her slurred speech, he told her to call 911. Thankfully her husband Bryon Wilkins came home while she talking to 911 and drove her to the hospital.

Doctors admitted her to the intensive care unit for pneumonia with sepsis. That night, with one lung full and the other 75 percent full of liquid, her body went into kidney failure forcing doctors to induce a coma. She was given a 25 percent chance of recovery.

For a month, Berman remained in a coma. Daughter Tracie kept family and friends apprised of Berman's condition via her blog the Chutzpah Files.

With the same passion and drive she used to help her clients and non-profit boards, Berman fought to regain her life. The ordeal would last months and include re-learning how to walk, talk, eat and swallow. To the surprise of no one who knows her, the dynamo exceeded all of her medical goals and left the hospital on May 18, five months ahead of schedule.

In the year since Berman came out of her coma, her "life has been evolving and changing," she said. True to her giving nature, Berman views her ordeal as an opportunity to help others. To that end, she is writing a book about her experience called "Sleeping at the Circus: Secrets I Learned from a Coma".

Not surprisingly, she is also back to work. With the closure of Gallery 44, she is busy with her company, Marian Berman Consulting, (formerly Marketing Muse) that helps small businesses increase their cash flow and profit margin via low cost marketing and sales strategies.

In addition, she continues to service her beloved art community as a framing consultant at historic Ellicott City's Matt About You store, owned by friend Julian Mannelli. Berman can be contacted at 410-917-3544 or at marian@marianbermanconsulting.

Glen Mar United Methodist Church's Family 5K Run/Walk is Saturday, April 20. Register for the fundraiser by April 2 and you'll receive a free T-shirt. Starting at 9 a.m., the 3.1-mile event will commence at Glen Mar, 4701 New Cut Road in Ellicott City (rain or shine).

The cost is $30 per individual, in addition to a nonperishable food item for donation. The canned foods, along with sponsorship and donations collected, will benefit the Howard County Food Bank. Go to Glen Mar's website at for more information, including registration.

If you enjoy musical theater, check out Ellicott City high schools' spring performances coming soon.

Save the date for these family-friendly theater productions — Centennial High School's "The Wizard of Oz," March 21-24; Howard High School's "Thoroughly Modern Millie," March 1, 2 and 7; and Mt. Hebron High School's "Bye Bye Birdie," March 16 -17, 21-23.

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