Chesterton Tribune

Art of the Dunes, a visual treat, at township museum

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Viewing fine art is rewarding in itself.

But gazing upon pieces depicting scenes you have seen with your own eyes can be even more powerful.

That’s the theme of the newest exhibit at the Westchester Town History Musuem “Art of the Dunes: An Enduring Tradition.”

The exhibit, from the private collection of an anonymous Duneland resident, ranges from the two artistic forefathers of the Dunes, Frank Dudley and Earl Reed, to current contemporaries, such as David Tutwiler. The common thread through the 16 paintings by 11 different artists is the beauty of the natural landscape just a few miles up the road.

“The thing that interests me the most is that I grew up hiking in the Dunes,” the donor said. “A couple of these paintings, when I saw them, I recognized the exact location the artist was standing 70 years ago.”

When museum visitors enter the exhibit, they are welcomed not only by the wide ranging works of art, but also by a soothing nature soundtrack and small video screen showing images of the Dunes to complete the effect.

Duneland residents might not be aware that some of the most impressive Dune areas were turned into factories and plants. Without a strong movement started by artists, the lakeshore might not be available to enjoy as it is today.

Both Dudley and Reed were among the earliest promoters of a Sand Dunes National Park. Reed testified on Oct. 30, 1916 at a Chicago hearing for a national park and Dudley exhibited his paintings around the city to gain support for their cause.

The Indiana Dunes State Park was created in 1923 and the goal of the national park became a reality in 1966. The exhibit, which was designed by museum curator Jane Walsh-Brown and has been two years in the making, details this history.

“Without these artists, we might not be able to enjoy the Dunes as we do today,” the donor said. “We wanted to raise awareness not only to the beauty of the Dunes but also the fragility. Some of these places might not even be here in the future. I wanted to share and help others appreciate where we live and be vigilant in preserving it.”

The collection began 15 years ago with a single painting, didn’t grow until a random addition a year later, but has since become almost an obsession for the donor. He has looked around the country both in person and online and has gathered pieces from coast to coast.

The most difficult aspect of giving to the exhibit was selecting which of the 30-plus pieces would be displayed at the museum, he said.

“It was generous of the collector to give to this exhibit because without it no one outside of his friends and family would be able to enjoy these paintings,” Walsh-Brown said. “Artists have played a vital role in showing people the value and beauty of the Dunes. We hope this reminds people we need to continue to safeguard these areas so that others can enjoy them as well.”

Other artists featured are Alice Adamson, John J. Correll, Jacob Howard Euston, Orval O. Haag, Mary Phillips Lacher, William J. Nelson, Rudolph Ohrning, John Cowan Templeton, Joseph Tomanek and Carolyn J. Vasquez.

The exhibit, which opened June 15 and runs through Aug. 28, can be viewed from 1 to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday at 700 W. Porter Ave. in Chesterton. Entry is free.



Posted 6/8/2011