But with the construction of the new gallery, the art works have started creating some buzz.
“A gallery like this at a high school is kind of unheard of,” Cutler said. “The wonderful thing about this collection now is that it’s not in a storage closet anymore.”
Over the last year, the gallery has exposed thousands of students from across the state to world-famous artists and world-class artworks without the hassle of driving to New York, Chicago or even Indianapolis.
And that’s the point, said Ann Kennedy, a member of the art collection advisory board, which helps oversee the collection.
“You don’t have to travel all the way across the country or all the way across the world to see amazing art anymore,” she said. “You can walk here from your house, like I did this morning … This gallery is all about exposing people to the arts, but it’s difficult to have that exposure when you live in the middle of a rural area.”
Since Thompson’s original donation of 75 paintings and 54 pottery pieces, the collection has grown to more than 170 works.
And as the new gallery gains a reputation in the art world, Cutler said even more art patrons have decided to bequeath parts of their collection to further the gallery’s educational mission.
The most recent donation came from an Indianapolis woman who passed along sketches by Renoir, John Singer Sargent, Albert Gleizes and Albert Marquet that she acquired in France.
The pieces were unveiled Sunday at the museum. Cutler said the artworks are valued at more than $100,000.
Peru High School Principal Jason Cary said the gallery and collection are truly rare. First, it’s one of the very few collections completely owned and maintained by a school corporation. Second, the collection contains a huge variety of styles, time periods and artists. Third, it’s housed in a gallery that rivals some of the best in the country.