Dan Phillips, 1945-2021

by Jessica Fuentes January 6, 2022
Photograph of artist Dan Phillips. The image shows the artist from mid-torso up. He looks straight at the camera with a smile. Behind him is a wooden house.

Artist Dan Phillips. Image: Sam Houston State University

Dan Phillips, the Huntsville-based artist, architect, and educator died on December 21, 2021 after a long battle with cancer. Shortly before he died, he received the 2021 Legacy Award from Sam Houston State University (SHSU) College of Arts & Media in recognition of his lifetime of artistic innovation and service to the community.

A photograph of a house built in the shape of an oversized boot. The house was built from reclaimed or recycled materials by Dan Phillips.

Dan Phillips, The Boot House, located in Huntsville, Texas. Image: Phoenix Commotion

While Mr. Phillips is best known for the unconventional homes he built in Huntsville, like The Hat House and The Boot House, over the past 25 years he built more than 20 houses in the area. The whimsy of his structures came from both their overall design and their building supplies — Mr. Phillips used recycled and salvaged materials in unexpected ways. His interest in sustainable practices were evident even in his youth, when he built a bicycle out of parts he recovered from a landfill. 

Mr. Phillips was born on June 4, 1945 in Denver, Colorado. From the time he was a young man, he lived a life of service. He was an Eagle Scout, was part of the trail crew for the United States Forest Service, and served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He was a professor at SHSU and led the initiative to develop the university’s dance program into its own department in the late 1970s. 

In 1998, Mr. Phillips and his wife, Marsha, formed Phoenix Commotion — an organization that not only built sustainable homes, but also was a steward of the community and the environment. The organization built affordable homes for artists and low-income families, and trained crewmembers in a variety of vocational skills during the construction process. Through Phoenix Commotion, Mr. Phillips served as director for two major projects: Smither Park, at the corner of Houston’s Third Ward and East End neighborhoods, and Analemma Dilemma at the SHSU Lowman Student Center

A photograph of an amphitheater stage with a brightly colored mosaic-style arch shaped backdrop.

The Lindley Fish Amphitheater at Smither Park. Image: The Orange Show

Mr. Phillips leaves a lasting legacy both locally and internationally. Though the structures he designed and built live in Texas, they have received recognition all over the world, from TED Talks and features on HGTV to articles in People Magazine and the New York Times.

Dan Phillips is survived by: his wife, Marsha Jones Phillips; his son, Ian Phillips (children Luke and Mason); his daughter, Phoebe Phillips Bower (with her husband Al and children, Reese and Shephard); his nephews, Dan (Lori) Roy and Richard Phillips, and his nieces, Kristi Roy Temple and Karen Valdez.

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Rainey Knudson January 10, 2022 - 08:05

Inspirational. RIP.


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