The Stone City Art Colony and School 1932-1933
Pauline Phelps Trask
 

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Pauline Phelps Trask (1906-1994) - student

Born in Independence, Iowa, Pauline Phelps desired a career as an artist and pursued one of the few paths open to women of her era – teaching. As a teenager, she spent a year at the Ferguson Practical Art School in Minneapolis and then returned to Iowa as a graphic designer for automobile dealerships near Independence. She decided to attend college and majored in art education at the Iowa State Teacher's College (now known as the University of Northern Iowa), securing her degree in 1930. Immediately after graduation, she was employed by the elementary schools in Streator, Illinois and eventually became the district's supervisor of art education (1938-39). At the time of her Stone City art colony enrollment, Phelps was employed as a high school art instructor in Newton, Iowa. She would spend fourteen years in Iowa and Illinois school systems.

During her summer breaks, Phelps followed her interests in painting and sculpture. She attended both sessions of the Stone City colony. Her colony roommate, Ruth Eby [Stinson], also studied sculpture from Florence Sprague. The two women, along with other female attendees, roomed on the second floor of the Green Mansion. While at the colony, she won honors, including a framed, original sketch from Wood for her efforts in charcoal. Following her colony experience, she received additional sculpture training at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles and spent one summer working towards a Masters in sculpture at the University of Iowa.

In 1944, Phelps’s interest in art took a different path when she applied for admittance to an occupational therapy program sponsored by the Surgeon General. Given her teaching and art background, Phelps was accepted and endured extensive training at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana campus, followed by medical classes in Chicago. Her final training occurred for eight months at an Army hospital, learning how to modify fine arts as therapy for rehabilitation. Phelps accepted a position at the Minneapolis Veterans Center, worked there for ten years, and then relocated to Wisconsin, where she farmed and painted.

In 1966, Phelps eventually moved to Sedona, Arizona, where she became active in community art circles and frequently exhibited at the Art Barn. She also worked as a weaver, enjoyed leather and woodworking as hobbies. Phelps received numerous awards for her watercolors, including honorable mentions from the Iowa Art Salon (1932) and awards from the Iowa Artist Club (1933). In her later years, Phelps moved back to Iowa, settled in Glenwood, and died there in 1994.


In recognition for excellence in outdoor sketching and sculpture, Phelps had a winning work cast and was given a painting by Grant Wood. The inscription noted here designates outstanding work for the first summer session (1932). An announcement about Wood's gift was featured in Phelp's hometown newspaper, The Independence Bulletin-Journal.

This painting is now owned by the Dubuque Museum of Art. It is a gift of Dr. Randall and Cathy Lengeling, in memory of Nelson Britt, a consummate museum professional and Director of Dubuque Museum of Art, 1999-2002.

Letter written by Pauline Trask explaining the provenance of the painting.

Pauline Phelps Trask as teacher in Illinois. Photos provided by Robert and Charlene George, Anamosa, Iowa.Photo provided by Robert and Charlene George, Anamosa, Iowa.

Pauline Phelps Trask as teacher in Illinois.

Pauline Phelps. Photographer: Jesse M. George. Photo provided by Robert and Charlene George, Anamosa, Iowa.

Pauline Phelps. Photographer: Jesse M. George.

Pauline and her father, Willis Phelps. Photo provided by Robert and Charlene George, Anamosa, Iowa.
Pauline and her father, Willis Phelps.

Photos provided by Robert and Charlene George, Anamosa, Iowa.

   

When Tillage Begins: The Stone City Art Colony and School
Published online October 2003 by the
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