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
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
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.