Sardonic Art Professor Dead at 69

Phillips Simkin put on multiple art projects in the mid-80's, while his most famous was a cast of the Liberty Bell. (Tom Levy)
Phillips Simkin put on multiple art projects in the mid-80’s, while his most famous was a cast of the Liberty Bell. (Tom Levy)

York College professor Phillips Simkin, best known for his casting and copyrighting of the crack in the Liberty Bell, died on Nov. 26 at the age of 69 from congestive heart failure.
      The Philadelphia native studied at the Tyler School of Art and received a Master’s degree in fine arts from Cornell University. He began teaching 2D and 3D design at York College in 1973 as a full time faculty member. Professor Simkin also taught printmaking, graphic design and was known for putting his unique and sardonic sense of humor into all of his artwork.
      Simkin was given permission to cast the crack in the Liberty Bell by the National Park Service. He described the work as turning a negative into a positive. Simkin went on to have a successful art and teaching career.
      His artwork over the years included Your Fifteen Minutes, where thousands of artists performed on a stage Simkin built for the show “Made in Philadelphia.” Another art installation included the Public Center for the Collection and Dissemination of Secret, where commuters would whisper secrets into street phone banks and hear the secrets of other anonymous people. In 1980, Professor Simkin was commissioned to build a performance piece for the Winter Olympics held in Lake Placid New York.
      His works were shown at galleries around the country including the Marian Locks Art Gallery, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute of Contemporary Art. Simkin received a variety of awards for his artwork over the years including the Louis Comfort Tiffany Prize Award, which awards money to artists all over the country.
      After 37 years of teaching, Simkin retired in 2010 as a professor emeritus. In his retirement, he worked on solely computer based images, working with digital printmaking and developing iPad applications.
      A funeral was held for professor Simkin on Dec. 5. He is survived by his wife Lois Johnson, a fellow printmaker who suffers from Alzheimers disease. Contributions in his name can be made to the Philadelphia Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter.

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