Sharon Jean Ulmer Opilla

July 21, 1946January 4, 2021

Artist S. Jean Ulmer Opilla (1946 - 2021) died on January 4 at the Anne Arundel Medical Center. She had been waging a valiant battle against leukemia for the past 18 months.

The widow of Jack Opilla, owned and operated Aurora Gallery, at first with three fellow artists and later on her own. Aurora, now closed, had become a destination in Annapolis for collectors of contemporary art during its more than 30 years on Maryland Avenue. Her own work, consisting mainly of soft sculpture and prints, earned her a place in many exhibitions and in homes in Maryland and around the world.

She also taught Art for many years at the Southshore Elementary School in Crownsville. The art room there was named and dedicated in her honor. More recently she volunteered in preparing exhibitions at Quiet Waters in Annapolis and exhibited her work at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria.

Opilla graduated with a B.F.A. from The Tyler School of Art at Temple University and also studied for a year abroad in Italy. She earned her M.F.A. at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.

She is survived by her son Christopher Opilla and daughter-in-law Dara Taylor Opilla of Bowie, Maryland, and her sister Donna Chitwood and brother-in-law Ray Smith of Texas.

A memorial celebration of her life will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be held until the memorial, when a nonprofit will be created in her honor to help underprivileged children attend art camps and after school art programs.


No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


Sharon Jean Ulmer Opilla

have a memory or condolence to add?

Eileen Doughty

January 12, 2021

I knew Jean through the gallery at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria. She was a bright soul in this weary world. We all loved her art too, it was fabulous and so original, and fun. We will miss her.

Valerie Vitagliano

January 10, 2021

We are saddened to hear of Jean's passing. It was a happy occasion when Jack & Jean invited us to their home. Cousins from Freeland, PA are slowly dwindling away but we will always remember Jean & Jack's kindness and hospitality. We send our deepest sympathy and will pray for their eternal rest

Barbara & Ed Vitagliano
Valerie & Marcus Slowiak

Janet Steinberg

January 9, 2021

How lucky I am to have enjoyed a 40-year friendship with Jeanne, to have laughed with her long and hard throughout that friendship, shared museum-visiting, attended concerts and plays and movies and art shows, traveled to Nova Scotia and the Pacific Northwest together, taken a hot air balloon ride, celebrated or observed major events in our lives, and on and on. She was a font of knowledge on crafts and those who made them. She was a wonderful artist, which I discovered when I first met her in our shared silkscreen class in the early 80s at the Md institute. She was a positive thinker, her head always on straight, with a great sense of humor, a generous soul in so many meaningful ways. I miss her terribly. Terribly. But I take great comfort realizing I knew her for 4 decades and I am deeply grateful. Peace and love to all her family and friends!