Chesterton Tribune

Jackson Township artist's work selected for national Easter Seals campaign

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Chesterton residents have probably seen the work of local artist and interior designer Virginia Phillips somewhere around the town, maybe hanging inside the Red Cup Café or at a local art show.

Now thousands across the county will get a glimpse of Phillips’ creative talent in their mail this spring. Philips was one of six artists nationally whose work was chosen by the Easter Seals organization for their 2011 mailing campaign, “Seals with Zeal,” to help individuals with disabilities.

“I’m just tickled to death to be part of that effort,” said Phillips. “I love taking part in a well-established organization that can do so much good for people. I like the whole picture of me being an artist and a resident of our area.”

Phillips, who turned 79 this past year, has had a strong interest of painting ever since she was a little girl living in Chicago’s south side. She went to school to become a schoolteacher, but wound up landing a job at Marcus T. Nielson Interior Design firm in Chicago as an assistant in 1953. She has been a part of the business ever since.

The majority of her interior design work is residential, but she has also helped design restaurants and offices. In her paintings, she enjoys creating landscapes and portraits using oils.

When Nielson decided to retire in the late 1960s, he moved the business to Suman Valley just one mile south of U.S. 6 in Jackson Township, Phillips said, and grew in popularity. Phillips and colleague Dewey Kooinga soon took over promptly after Nielson’s retirement and renovated what is now known as the Art Barn. The barn also features an antique store that Phillips helped to start.

“We never suffered from going from the big city to the boonies,” she said.

Although the economy has nosedived, Phillips continues to work as an interior designer and paints with her friends at the barn where she works and lives close by.

Encouraged by a friend, Phillips had entered the contest once before in 2009. Her painting of a tiger lily made the cut in this year’s contest.

Phillips describes her style as similar to German Expressionists, and creates her paintings to be abstract to some degree. Her paintings are often in the style of Van Gough, leaving the painting abstract enough that the eye can still identify objects it sees.

Sky, Lake and Dunes Calendar

Recently, Phillips has turned to the Indiana Dunes for inspiration in a series called “Sky, Lake, and Dunes.” Twelve paintings from the series Phillips incorporated into calendar for 2011, with each painting containing its own special characteristic for each month.

“I thought people would be interested since they know about the Dunes and are enthusiastic about them. Some of my friends or their parents were very active in getting the National Lakeshore established back in the 1960s,” she said.

Phillips has decided to order more calendars for those who are interested in purchasing one.

A glimpse of Phillips’ work is at Webpage visitors can also purchase the paintings online if they desire. Paintings may be purchased in different sizes, including her submissions for the Easter Lilly campaign.

Phillips’ name is not one to go unnoticed around award presentations. Just recently, Phillips won a commemoration from the Elkhart Art Museum and often receives praise each year at the Chesterton Women’s Art Club award show.

She also participates annually in the Schoolhouse Shop Art Show in September located off of Furnessville Rd.

Phillips also speaks fondly of her late husband, Hal, who taught English for thirty years at the Purdue University North Central campus in Westville. She is planning to enter submissions again for the Easter Seals 2012 art contest.

Easter Seals Organization

The Easter Seals program was started by the National Society for Crippled Children in 1934. According to a press release, the campaign became an annual effort with mailings every spring to help children live normal lives.

The seal serves as a symbol of health and hope for children and adults with disabilities. Cleveland Plain Dealer cartoonist J.H. Donahey designed the first seal depicting a child with crutches standing in front of a white cross.

By 1952, the organization officially incorporated the lily as its logo, symbolizing the growth of spring. The lily has appeared on each seal ever since and has brought about a 90 percent public recognition rate and overwhelming public support.


Posted 1/3/2011