Peru — There’s an unremarkable, commonplace door inside Peru High School. It opens into a small, run-of-the-mill, average-looking closet.
But walk inside, and you won’t find mops, buckets or cleaning supplies.
What you will see is something truly extraordinary: stacks and stacks of world-famous, extremely valuable paintings by artists like Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali scattered around on shelves and tables.
Sitting casually in a corner on a wooden pedestal is a more than 2,000 year old stone statue from China.
“Isn’t this nuts,” asked Mike Applegate, an art teacher at the school, who took a break from teaching his class to unlock the closet to show off a unique Dali construction called “Lincoln Vision.”
“It blows me away. I still can’t believe it,” he said.
At times, the nondescript closet is home to 138 paintings and prints from masters all across the U.S. and all over the world, including places like France, Spain and Russia. Some are cubist, impressionist, surrealist or modernist. Some are even from Brown County.
It’s an amazing, seriously expensive art collection. And it’s finally moving out of the closet.
Peru High School is currently installing a large, full-fledged, high-end art gallery equipped with climate control and a high-tech security system to display the pieces.
“Artist do artworks so that people can see them, not sit in a closet,” said Applegate, who sits on the committee that oversees the collection. “Now, it will finally be open to the community, so art colleagues and anyone else can see it.”
The collection came from G. David Thompson, a Peru High School
graduate who became a wealthy Pittsburgh industrialist in the 1920s. He became an art enthusiast, and eventually became a world-renowned art collector.
He started donating parts of his collection to the high school in 1938 to honor his teacher and principal John Whittenberger, and stipulated the works had to be used for educational purposes at the school.