Shortly after moving to Bethesda Gardens, Phyllis and husband, Grant MacLaren experienced a more secluded life style due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Residents were restricted to their apartments, so Phyllis, a visual artist and musician, brought entertainment thru hall concerts. She presented violin performances throughout the building on a schedule including visits to all hallways. Bethesda Gardens residents were waiting in their doorways with smiles on their faces when she arrived. Inspired by Yoyo Ma, Phyllis thinks music provides peace and healing during uncertain times. Phyllis is seen here playing her violin at Bethesda Gardens.
Phyllis has played the violin continuously since the fourth grade, including her high school orchestra, SIU Symphony, Charlotte NC Symphony, St Louis String Ensemble and the Kirkwood Symphony. She also played the mandolin with a folk music group for many years. Phyllis enjoyed singing too with the Missouri Women’s Chorale.
Art is her great love however. She majored in Art Education and thinks that art teachers should also create and exhibit art. She taught high school art in Charlotte NC, weaving and art technics for the Peace Corps in Puerto Rico, weaving and spinning at Craft Alliance Education Center and a wide variety of art subjects at University City High School. These included Studio Art, Drawing, Printmaking, Fiber Arts, Black and White Photography, and Advanced Placement Art History. She served as the art department chair and spent a year as the District Art Supervisor.
During the summers Phyllis volunteered as a teacher/leader for People to People. This organization was founded by President Eisenhower to promote peace through understanding. She accompanied many trips to Washington DC, including three inaugurations. Two for President Obama and one for President George W. Bush. She also served as a teacher/leader to four programs at Stanford University, two at UCLA and two at Harvard. People to People took her to Europe twice, Australia and New Zealand.
Phyllis served as photographer for two group Fulbrights for teachers. The first was to India for six weeks and the second to China for four weeks. The photographs were exhibited upon return.
As an exhibiting artist, Phyllis showed woven art pieces in Charlotte NC and Craft Alliance in St Louis. Since then she has turned to mixed media pieces with the theme of international human rights. The most recent pieces honor people whose human rights have been denied. She has exhibited these works in libraries, community colleges and churches as well as art galleries. Her art pieces may be seen on her website.