Arts + Culture
Mara Adelman
Merging Art, Passion, and Philanthropy
WRITTEN BY Layne Randolph


Published On: September 25, 2020
mara aldeman
Photos By: Barbara Schwartz

Some people know how to live well; they become masters of their profession and then use that knowledge and passion to impact the world in a positive way. Mara Adelman is one of those individuals.

Mara’s personal arc took her from teaching at prestigious American universities such as Northwestern to becoming a Fulbright Specialist in cross-cultural communication. Her co-authored book, Beyond Language: Cross-Cultural Communication for ESL, enabled her to teach at international universities and conduct workshops on cross-cultural communication in Ethiopia, China, Vietnam, Laos, Japan, Turkey, and aboard Semester at Sea.

Cross-cultural communication has been her life’s passion. In her humble, bordering-on-dismissive style, she described her career path by saying, “I started traveling for years at a time; in between, I got a few degrees.” Those “few degrees” include a Ph.D. in Speech Communication.

Now she has brought her formidable life’s work to a new location and a new medium. Mara retired to Napa Valley to become a full-time artist and founder of Napa Valley’s Earrings for Peace (, and she shares her decades of work in cross-cultural communication by sitting on the board for Napa Center for Thought and Culture.

She founded Earrings for Peace to respond to the global refugee crisis and to raise funds for Hands On Global, a medical team that works in refugee camps around the world. As a jewelry designer, Mara combines diverse gems, glass, crystals, Bakelite, stone, coral, seed beads, and various metals to create both small and large earrings, favoring the beauty of asymmetry in her work. Earrings for Peace uses American- made, non-allergenic earring pins and loops in its designs. One hundred percent of proceeds from Earrings for Peace aid the victims of the international refugee crisis.

During her 40 years of traveling and teaching  around  the  world,  she’s  collected  a massive assortment of “found  objects”  that she uses to craft necklaces. These are bold, light works that showcase the remark- able  beads and  curios  from  her   travels: old chevrons from India; wooden receipts from Japan; antique Bakelite works; silver Milagros; NYC subway tokens; mahjong pieces; card game images; dominos; dice;  and coins. She works with silversmiths in Istanbul and Mexico to finish these high- quality, one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces.

These days, most of what she does  is for the good of others. Her drawings have raised funds for entre amigos Community Center in San Pancho, Mexico, and her love of teaching drew her to offer private art and jewelry classes for a small fee, which help fund medical supplies for refugees. She loves sketching people–children in playgrounds, older people lounging at pools, Day of the Dead images, and portraits of faces-with- character. As a ceramic artist, she transfers these drawings to low fire bisque tiles and then uses underglazes and fine pens for the final piece, using her whimsical illustrations to create stunning ceramic pottery.

“I want to make a difference,” she said, “It’s fabulous when you can convert your passion into philanthropy.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Mara’s artwork: // Non-profit: