Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

May 18, 2014

Peru Schools' Fine Art Gallery is home to multimillion-dollar collection

PERU — More than 60 years ago, Peru High School alumnus G. David Thompson was visiting an art class at his old high school. The project for the week was making ceramic pottery.

Thompson asked the teacher if he’d like some classic examples of ceramics to help teach his class. Of course, the teacher said he would.

A few weeks later, two large crates showed up at the high school’s doors with 54 vases, figurines and other historic pottery pieces from ancient Asia. The oldest piece was created in 250 B.C. in China.

It was a seriously valuable donation to the school, and it was just one of many Thompson made to the high school from the 1930s through the 1950s.

Thompson, who graduated from Peru High School in 1913 and eventually amassed a fortune owning several steel companies in Pittsburgh, would sporadically drop off paintings, sketches and other pieces from world famous artists at the high school.

When it was all said and done, the collection donated by Thompson included lithographs, sketches and paintings by such artists as Salvador Dalí, William Merritt Chase, Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso.

Art experts from all over the U.S. have appraised the collection. It’s worth millions.

Now, those artworks are hanging in the Peru Community Schools Fine Art Gallery.

The gallery recently celebrated its one-year anniversary since it opened its doors. The school corporation spent $250,000 to transform a large, unused storage space behind the school’s stage into a high-tech, state-of-the-art museum.

One thing’s for sure: The museum is a huge step up from where the school’s multimillion dollar art collection previously was housed.

After the new high school was built in the 1970s, the paintings, pottery pieces and sketches sat in a storage closet, unused and unseen by hardly anyone.

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