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Gallery Owner and Artist Traces Passions Back to Rowland Hall Education

Bonnie Phillips '60 and her husband, Denis, founded the Phillips Gallery in 1965, and now it holds the title of the oldest-running commercial art gallery in the Intermountain West. Mature shade trees form a canopy over their tidy historic storefront that for 50 years has held its own against newer, bigger commercial buildings on the block. Much like its owners, it's comfortably elegant and teeming with fascinating stories.

The gallery holds a special place in Salt Lake as a factual framework for Utah art history. Artists Bonnie and Denis built their successful business by representing—and often befriending—other regional artists, including Rowland Hall alumni Lee Deffebach '45, Stephen Goldsmith '72, and Hadley Rampton '94. In the late 1960s, Utah Art and Sculpture magazine recognized the Phillips Gallery for "challenging the bounds of Utah taste through their intelligent promotion of less traditional art" and called the business "the first viable modernist and avant-garde concern in the Utah art market."

Indeed, Bonnie has done more than establish an alluring storefront: she's cultivated a community of creatives and served as an ambassador for Utah arts, according to Hadley, a gallery fine art consultant. Phillips Gallery almost exclusively shows pieces by Utah artists, and clients visiting Salt Lake from major art centers such as New York City or Los Angeles "are just blown away by the quality and variety of work here," Hadley said. Salt Lake is lucky to have Bonnie, she added. "Our community here is very strong...she has definitely contributed in a big way."

Denis and Bonnie grew up in different Salt Lake neighborhoods and met after college, yet both credit the daily presence of art in their youth for what would become a mutual passion. Bonnie fondly remembers Rowland Hall as a "warm and friendly place" where teachers appreciated and nurtured her love of art. One of those teachers was the late George Fox, a beloved Rowland Hall art educator for 32 years—read more about him on page 40 of the Spring 2012 Review. With a laugh and a shudder, Bonnie recalled a memory from the so-called "A Building" on the old Avenues Campus: she watched Mr. Fox make the risky climb to the top of the foyer to open a light well so students could enjoy the sun.

"I remember the light streaming in through the huge Avenues Campus windows, illuminating the art on the walls," Bonnie said. "Some was student work and other was by professional artists—but it was all honored."

Nearly seven decades later, much of the art now illuminated on Rowland Hall's walls is there thanks to Bonnie—she has loaned the school 114 paintings from her personal collection with the hope of enriching students' educational experiences, just as the school once enriched her childhood.

Nearly seven decades later, much of the art now illuminated on Rowland Hall's walls is there thanks to Bonnie—she has loaned the school 114 paintings from her personal collection with the hope of enriching students' educational experiences, just as the school once enriched her childhood. The collection appropriately includes 17 pieces by Bonnie and seven by her husband.

In the Beginning School, 19 loaned works contribute to the calm, beautiful environment carefully cultivated by Principal Carol Blackwell. In one piece—an untitled 2002 acrylic painting by prominent Utah artist and Rowland Hall parent Willamarie Huelskamp—a red stag turns to look behind him, toward a sliver of red moon. The other pieces also depict colorful, creatively interpreted insects, animals, and plants. Such works enlighten our youngest learners, who appreciate art's intrinsic value and worth: "Children can observe shape, color, emotional qualities, and intangible traits such as kindness," 4PreK teacher Kate Nevins said.

For Bonnie, Rowland Hall nurtured some of those good, intangible traits. She grew up with grandparents of mixed religions and remains grateful that whether at home or school, adults around her emphasized a message of inclusion: "At Rowland Hall, we began school every morning singing hymns together in chapel," she said. "It didn't matter what your religion was at home, we all sang together. It was such a wonderful way to open our hearts and minds to learning for the rest of the day. It was truly spiritual."

Years later, Bonnie combined her passion for art with the lasting impression of kindness and spirituality to form the Golden Rule Project, an organization based on the law of reciprocity—do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

The ideas that led to the Golden Rule Project first percolated in Bonnie's mind as Edna Traul's fourth-grade student at Rowland Hall. Mrs. Traul had students memorize and recite poetry, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the golden rule. "The pledge seemed sort of exclusive, whereas the golden rule had a sense of fairness," Bonnie said.

The lessons intrinsic to the golden rule continued to simmer in Bonnie's heart, and with the help of her mother, Jane Dooly Porter '36, the Golden Rule Project became a reality in 2003. Two years later, Bonnie worked with Urban Crossroads Center and then-State Senator Fred Fife to introduce a state resolution asking lawmakers to consider the rule as they carried out their duties. Now, the project is a thriving nonprofit that combines art, mindfulness, and communication. It encourages people to incorporate the principle into their daily lives, in part by promoting the rule's many artistic representations found across faiths, philosophies, and teachings.

When Ms. Porter died in 2008, she donated her spacious, art-filled house at 1229 East South Temple to the project. Her memory lives on through the home, nicknamed Jane's House, a place designated for diverse gatherings and discussions.

Jane's House has expanded the Golden Rule Project, but art remains at the heart of the message. Beautiful variations of the golden rule hang in schools and organizations nationwide, including the Utah State Capitol. Each formulation is a unique two-page, framed diptych, measuring 21 inches by 13 inches (golden mean proportions), and letterpressed on paper hand-marbled by local artists.

Bonnie said she believes deeply in the principle. Each night, she assesses her day by asking herself, "Have I done unto others as I would have them do unto me?" The Rowland Hall community certainly thinks so. In 2009, the school inducted Bonnie into the Alumni Hall of Fame for her countless hours of service to the community.

Dooly-Phillips Family Rowland Hall Alumni

  • Peggy Dooly Olwell '33 (Jane's sister and Bonnie's aunt)
  • Jane Dooly Porter '36 (Bonnie's mother)
  • Bonnie Phillips '60
  • Ellie Olwell Roser '60 (Peggy's older daughter and Bonnie's cousin)
  • Carol Olwell '62 (Peggy's youngest daughter and Bonnie's cousin)
  • Ben Phillips '87 (Bonnie's son)

Alumni

Bonnie Phillips '60 Lives a Vibrant Life Championing Utah Artists—and the Golden Rule

Gallery Owner and Artist Traces Passions Back to Rowland Hall Education

Bonnie Phillips '60 and her husband, Denis, founded the Phillips Gallery in 1965, and now it holds the title of the oldest-running commercial art gallery in the Intermountain West. Mature shade trees form a canopy over their tidy historic storefront that for 50 years has held its own against newer, bigger commercial buildings on the block. Much like its owners, it's comfortably elegant and teeming with fascinating stories.

The gallery holds a special place in Salt Lake as a factual framework for Utah art history. Artists Bonnie and Denis built their successful business by representing—and often befriending—other regional artists, including Rowland Hall alumni Lee Deffebach '45, Stephen Goldsmith '72, and Hadley Rampton '94. In the late 1960s, Utah Art and Sculpture magazine recognized the Phillips Gallery for "challenging the bounds of Utah taste through their intelligent promotion of less traditional art" and called the business "the first viable modernist and avant-garde concern in the Utah art market."

Indeed, Bonnie has done more than establish an alluring storefront: she's cultivated a community of creatives and served as an ambassador for Utah arts, according to Hadley, a gallery fine art consultant. Phillips Gallery almost exclusively shows pieces by Utah artists, and clients visiting Salt Lake from major art centers such as New York City or Los Angeles "are just blown away by the quality and variety of work here," Hadley said. Salt Lake is lucky to have Bonnie, she added. "Our community here is very strong...she has definitely contributed in a big way."

Denis and Bonnie grew up in different Salt Lake neighborhoods and met after college, yet both credit the daily presence of art in their youth for what would become a mutual passion. Bonnie fondly remembers Rowland Hall as a "warm and friendly place" where teachers appreciated and nurtured her love of art. One of those teachers was the late George Fox, a beloved Rowland Hall art educator for 32 years—read more about him on page 40 of the Spring 2012 Review. With a laugh and a shudder, Bonnie recalled a memory from the so-called "A Building" on the old Avenues Campus: she watched Mr. Fox make the risky climb to the top of the foyer to open a light well so students could enjoy the sun.

"I remember the light streaming in through the huge Avenues Campus windows, illuminating the art on the walls," Bonnie said. "Some was student work and other was by professional artists—but it was all honored."

Nearly seven decades later, much of the art now illuminated on Rowland Hall's walls is there thanks to Bonnie—she has loaned the school 114 paintings from her personal collection with the hope of enriching students' educational experiences, just as the school once enriched her childhood.

Nearly seven decades later, much of the art now illuminated on Rowland Hall's walls is there thanks to Bonnie—she has loaned the school 114 paintings from her personal collection with the hope of enriching students' educational experiences, just as the school once enriched her childhood. The collection appropriately includes 17 pieces by Bonnie and seven by her husband.

In the Beginning School, 19 loaned works contribute to the calm, beautiful environment carefully cultivated by Principal Carol Blackwell. In one piece—an untitled 2002 acrylic painting by prominent Utah artist and Rowland Hall parent Willamarie Huelskamp—a red stag turns to look behind him, toward a sliver of red moon. The other pieces also depict colorful, creatively interpreted insects, animals, and plants. Such works enlighten our youngest learners, who appreciate art's intrinsic value and worth: "Children can observe shape, color, emotional qualities, and intangible traits such as kindness," 4PreK teacher Kate Nevins said.

For Bonnie, Rowland Hall nurtured some of those good, intangible traits. She grew up with grandparents of mixed religions and remains grateful that whether at home or school, adults around her emphasized a message of inclusion: "At Rowland Hall, we began school every morning singing hymns together in chapel," she said. "It didn't matter what your religion was at home, we all sang together. It was such a wonderful way to open our hearts and minds to learning for the rest of the day. It was truly spiritual."

Years later, Bonnie combined her passion for art with the lasting impression of kindness and spirituality to form the Golden Rule Project, an organization based on the law of reciprocity—do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

The ideas that led to the Golden Rule Project first percolated in Bonnie's mind as Edna Traul's fourth-grade student at Rowland Hall. Mrs. Traul had students memorize and recite poetry, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the golden rule. "The pledge seemed sort of exclusive, whereas the golden rule had a sense of fairness," Bonnie said.

The lessons intrinsic to the golden rule continued to simmer in Bonnie's heart, and with the help of her mother, Jane Dooly Porter '36, the Golden Rule Project became a reality in 2003. Two years later, Bonnie worked with Urban Crossroads Center and then-State Senator Fred Fife to introduce a state resolution asking lawmakers to consider the rule as they carried out their duties. Now, the project is a thriving nonprofit that combines art, mindfulness, and communication. It encourages people to incorporate the principle into their daily lives, in part by promoting the rule's many artistic representations found across faiths, philosophies, and teachings.

When Ms. Porter died in 2008, she donated her spacious, art-filled house at 1229 East South Temple to the project. Her memory lives on through the home, nicknamed Jane's House, a place designated for diverse gatherings and discussions.

Jane's House has expanded the Golden Rule Project, but art remains at the heart of the message. Beautiful variations of the golden rule hang in schools and organizations nationwide, including the Utah State Capitol. Each formulation is a unique two-page, framed diptych, measuring 21 inches by 13 inches (golden mean proportions), and letterpressed on paper hand-marbled by local artists.

Bonnie said she believes deeply in the principle. Each night, she assesses her day by asking herself, "Have I done unto others as I would have them do unto me?" The Rowland Hall community certainly thinks so. In 2009, the school inducted Bonnie into the Alumni Hall of Fame for her countless hours of service to the community.

Dooly-Phillips Family Rowland Hall Alumni

  • Peggy Dooly Olwell '33 (Jane's sister and Bonnie's aunt)
  • Jane Dooly Porter '36 (Bonnie's mother)
  • Bonnie Phillips '60
  • Ellie Olwell Roser '60 (Peggy's older daughter and Bonnie's cousin)
  • Carol Olwell '62 (Peggy's youngest daughter and Bonnie's cousin)
  • Ben Phillips '87 (Bonnie's son)

Alumni

Explore More Arts Stories

Phinehas Bynum performs in Candide
Winged Lions on the Rise—title page graphic featuring six alumni.

Editor's note: this is one of six profiles republished from Rowland Hall's 2018–2019 Annual Report feature story, "Winged Lions on the Rise." Millennial alumni are finding their voices and already shaping their fields and communities—from physics to film, music to medical innovations, and environmental policy to conservation-minded real estate. Learn how Rowland Hall impacted them, and how they’re impacting the world. From left, Jared Ruga ’06, Claire Wang ’15, Phinehas Bynum ’08, Jeanna Tachiki Ryan ’01, Tyler Ruggles ’05, and Sarah Day ’06.


Phinehas Bynum makes “whizbangs and gizmos” to automate mundane things in his Minneapolis house. A motion sensor on his washing machine messages him when the washer stops. Between loads, he composes and plays music in his DIY home-recording studio. It’s a delightful showcase of his two biggest passions.

Phinehas—Phin, for short—holds a music and computer science degree from St. Olaf College in Minnesota. By day, he works for software company Jamf on a technical-implementation team that teaches and trains clients. But the renaissance man has also been a lifelong singer—performing with the likes of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as a fourth grader, the renowned St. Olaf Choir as a college student, and operas around Minneapolis, including the Minnesota Opera (MNOp), since college.

You can make someone's day better by fixing their computer, or by singing them a song. And both of these involve compassion, creativity, logic, and technique.—Phinehas Bynum ’08

“I was just about born singing,” said Phin, whose parents prophetically gave him a name that means, among other interpretations, mouth of brass. “Every time you say ‘Phinehas’ a trumpet gets its wings,” the alum quipped. Naturally, young Phin also dabbled in reverse engineering. “Mama and Papa stepped on clock springs and screws on the daily because I took everything apart to see how it worked,” he said. “Computer science was an extension of tinkering for me because you could change how something worked just by telling it to change, no take-apart required.” 

Phin has deftly balanced singing and computing, which he said similarly fulfill him. “You can make someone's day better by fixing their computer, or by singing them a song,” he said. “And both of these involve compassion, creativity, logic, and technique.” And he continues the balancing act, in part, because of Rowland Hall. “I was always encouraged to spend time doing what I was passionate about, and that goal has stuck with me,” he said. “Ultimate frisbee, robotics club, cross country, choir, jazz band—most of the things I am doing now, I was also doing in some form in high school.”

Actors on stage in front of orchestra.

Phinehas Bynum, second from left, stars in VocalEssence and Theater Latté Da’s March 2019 production of Candide. (Photos by Bruce Silcox, courtesy of VocalEssence)

Now, Phin’s arts life is expanding. The singer made his theatrical debut in March to rave reviews. Two Minneapolis arts organizations collaborated to present Candide, a reimagining of the Leonard Bernstein operetta. Phin landed the titular role. Tickets to the five-night, 505-seat show in the heart of downtown sold out early, so the final dress rehearsal became a sixth production. Phin called the performance—his largest to date—transformative. He described his character as an optimist whose misadventures make him wiser instead of bitter. “I'd consider myself a stubborn, but quiet optimist,” Phin said. “It was core-shaking to inhabit a character who lives his optimism completely on the outside, and it challenged me to let the rest of the world, the audience, see that element of me.” His months of practice paid off. In the Star Tribune, critic Terry Blain praised Phin’s performance: “Bynum cut a convincingly boyish figure, his light tenor imparting a touchingly artless quality to songs.”

Since Candide wrapped, Phin has spent more time making his own music—an exploration of jazz, pop, and electronic. He’s recording an album, a longtime dream that combines his musical and technical pursuits. He’s also excited to sing with MNOp again. “I get to sit in a room of wonderfully passionate and diverse folks and bring feelings and ideas and notes and rhythms off a piece of paper and into reality,” he said. “It's the best.” 

Phin credited Rowland Hall for a solid foundation, and expressed gratitude to teachers and administrators—particularly the late Linda Hampton, a beloved Upper School staffer who attended nearly all of his performances. “Linda called herself my ‘biggest fan,’” Phin said. “I’m blessed that my musical endeavors have always been supported by my family and friends, but Linda will always have a special place in my heart.”

Alumni

orchestra concert

Winged Lion musicians enjoyed a banner school year dotted with captivating chapel and morning-meeting performances, well-attended concerts, a visit from a Stradivarius-playing concertmaster, and glowing reviews at competitions.

Highlights for the year, according to music teachers Sarah Yoon and Jeremy Innis:

  • On October 16, our Advanced Chamber Ensemble (ACE) performed at Primary Children's Hospital for the third year in a row; read our November 2017 story about ACE and their volunteerism. New this year, the hospital internally televised the concert for all patients to enjoy.

  • On April 23, Pacific Symphony Concertmaster Dennis Kim visited Rowland Hall for a masterclass, brown-bag lunch concert, and Q&A session. Dennis worked with our musicians in small groups, giving them direct, practical pointers—particularly on playing their instruments with passion. He also shared personal anecdotes, including the story of his career and how he acquired a Stradivarius violin, one of the most celebrated and valuable instruments in the world.

  • On May 2, ACE and the Upper School Orchestra performed music from Schindler’s List at the Jewish Community Center for Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day. “It was very powerful to be among Holocaust survivors and family members,” Sarah said.

  • On June 1, choir students performed Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” along with our jazz band and dance company at the Salt Lake City Pride Parade; participation was driven by middle and upper schoolers in LGBTQ+ advocacy and allyship clubs.

Competition Highlights

Sixteen Rowland Hall students competed at Regionals on March 26. From there, one choir and all eight ACE students moved onto the Utah High School Activities Association’s State Solo and Ensemble South Festival held Saturday, April 27, in Provo.

At State, all of our competing students (listed below) received a “superior” rating, the highest on a five-point scale. View a full PDF of all results.

Solos

  • Cora Lopez, contralto singer, La fleur que tu m'avais jetee by Bizet
  • Claire Sanderson, piano, Chopin Nocturne
  • Ziteng Zeng, violin, Mozart Rondo from Serenade in D minor "Haffner"
  • Jake Bleil, string bass, Koussevitzy Valse Miniature
  • Augustus Hickman, violin, Bach Concerto in A minor

Duets

  • Austin Topham and Zach Benton, violin and viola, Handel Halvorsen Passacaglia
  • Patrick McNally and Ziteng Zeng, violin, Vivaldi Concerto in D minor
  • Augustus Hickman and Atticus Hickman, violin, Bach Double Concerto

Music

students performing on stage
Middle and upper school actors, dancers, musicians, and visual artists derived their own absurd, whimsical, haunting, and comedic version of Alice in Wonderland, performed April 11–13 in the Larimer Center for the Performing Arts.

The innovative show featured large-scale murals, traveling props, a costume menagerie, every style of dance, and integrated orchestral, vocal, and jazz music.

theater

dancers on stage

Every arts performance is a collaborative event, and in recent years we’ve had a large contingency of alumni return and contribute their time and talents to our programs. This January’s dance concert, Home: The Monsters We Run From, The Refuge We Seek, featured a film by Oliver Jin ’18 and a piece choreographed by Laja Field ’08. Also assisting: Max Jacquin ’18 worked on the lighting design and Sophia Cutrubus ’18 trained dancers in the Middle School Arts & Ensemble program.

Oliver’s film served as an introduction to the dance concert, framing the themes of migration and departure in scientific terms and providing audience members with a foundation to aid their interpretation of the dancers’ work. “The film is a message that says migration and movement and departure are an integral part of our humanity,” Oliver said. He credited Rowland Hall with showing him how the arts are intertwined. Now in his first year at Sarah Lawrence College studying photography, Oliver frequently attends art installations, dance lectures, and other performances to support and learn from fellow artists.

Laja Field ’08 enjoyed coming back to Rowland Hall and collaborating with the current group of students and artists. She said the school feels like home to her: “The teachers and experiences I had there I hold very close to my heart.”After graduating in 2008, Laja Field earned her bachelor’s degree in modern dance at the University of Utah and went on to dance professionally, eventually founding the physical dance theatre company LAJAMARTIN with her partner, Martin Durov. She said studying dance at Rowland Hall—and the opportunity to complete a distinction in dance—helped her envision a career in the field. Laja was thrilled to return and create a piece on current students, which  was partly inspired by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk, The Danger of a Single Story.

“I believe that, if we tell more stories, and we’re able to invite another perspective through dance, there’s an opportunity to see something in a new way,” Laja said. She described her piece as a mish-mash of cultural influences, which asks people to consider their roles in any given community. “Who are we? Are we the ones who open our arms? Are we the ones who listen to new stories and open up our perspectives and take them in? Or are we stuck in our ways?”

Rowland Hall’s arts department chair Sofia Gorder celebrated the desire of our alumni to collaborate with other artists and stay engaged with their alma mater: “The school breeds this idea that we come back and we give back. That’s part of the culture.” See clips from the concert and hear more from Laja and Oliver about what giving back to the arts means to them.
 

Alumni

You Belong at Rowland Hall