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New art commission head ready for studio tour

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Julia Miller, a photographer and painter, is the new Northbrook Arts Commission chairman. | Tamara Bell~Sun-Times Media

Updated: October 6, 2011 3:56AM



Save the date for the Northbrook Artists’ Studio Tour Sunday. That’s a major event on the schedule for Julia Miller, whose new role is chairman of the Northbrook Arts Commission.

The Sunday studios tour from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. features about 12 artists in seven different locations in Northbrook. Those artists include the late Roda K. Patel, who died Aug. 8.

It’s is one of the many events sponsored by the Northbrook Arts Commission, which also includes Art in the Park during July.

“The work I do for the Arts Commission is a labor of love,” said Miller, a 23-year Northbrook resident who has volunteered since 2007. “I look forward to the challenge of being the chairperson of this vibrant commission.

“One primary reason for the success of the Arts Commission is Judy Hughes,” said Miller, of the former Northbrook Arts Commission Chairman. Hughes will continue to serve on the commission’s music selection committee and remains president of the Northbrook Historical Society.

“Her (Hughes’) visions and the leadership ability she possesses are real assets,” said Miller. “I am honored to have worked with her the past four years and even more honored to be following in her footsteps as chairperson of the commission.”

Miller and her husband, Tom, relocated to Northbrook from Michigan when his accounting career path brought him a local opportunity. With no children, “the move was easy and very exciting,” recalls Miller, who is now also a retired accountant.

“Of all the North Shore suburbs, we looked at Northbrook as the one we both loved and have been very happy here,” added Miller, who will soon celebrate her 40th wedding anniversary.

Born in Knoxville, Tenn., Miller’s family moved to the Detroit area when she was 10. After obtaining a bachelor of science in accounting degree from the University of Detroit, Miller found herself settling into married life, retiring in 2002.

“I soon found myself with time and energy that needed direction,” recalls Miller. “At the suggestion of friends, I started taking art classes at the Northbrook Park District and found my new passion.”

“I loved the classes and the exposure to the local art scene.”

Miller began snapping photographs and found she was really good at it.”

“I had always been the family photographer and enjoyed taking pictures but it was in these park district classes that I met Judith Joseph,” said Miller.

“Judith is a wonderful Northbrook artist but more than that she is a fantastic motivator. She liked my photography and encouraged me to pursue that discipline but also continue my other art classes,” said Miller, appreciatively.

“It was a transformative experience for me.”

Joseph is known for her ketubahs, a traditional Jewish faith-based marriage contract as original art. Joseph is a shining example of a Northbrook artist success story.

“Soon I was photographing, and then exhibiting and my world begin to change,” said Miller. “After several years of exhibiting in local art shows, I found I was more comfortable with some of the administrative areas of the local art scene.”

“My educational and business background and my new found passion began to emerge.”

Still considering herself “primarily a photographer,” Miller takes watercolor lessons.

“My watercolor classes are a form of therapy for me,” she said. “I love the quietness of the studio and working with my fellow artists.

“My life is full with the things I love to do. The beauty of this time in my life is I have the time to devote to my various projects,” said Miller.

Her main volunteer focus is the Northbrook Arts Commission, also “supporting local artists and, of course, my family.”

She is a “serious reader of books,” enjoying art subjects, thrillers and non-fiction. Miller is a “very active patron of our wonderful Northbrook library.”

She enjoys art galleries and museums like the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Kenosha Public Museum.

Last May, Miller visited Italy.

“What a wonderful art filled trip,” she recalls. “Seven days in Tuscany (Sienna, Florence and other small villages) and then three days in Rome — it was an unbelievable experience.”

“You cannot go to the Vatican museum and not be absolutely overwhelmed — the Sistine Chapel was something I will always cherish.”

Now that she is back home in ZIP code 60062, where the commission motto is “Art is the Heart of Northbrook,” Miller cherishes her new volunteer role as chairperson — sharing her accounting and photographer’s eye with all.

“When you volunteer, everyone wins,” urges Miller. “In Northbrook, it is one of the unknown assets of the community. So much of our community is enriched by our neighbors volunteering.”

Visit www.northbrookarts.org/calendar for an online guide to the tour sites.

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