Steel magnate G. David Thompson, known as G. David, graduated from Peru High School and donated the art in memory of the teacher he credited with turning his life around. In 1912, G. David was a poor student who often hooked school, then was befriended by John Whittenberger a new teacher at the high school.
G. David went on to attend Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh. Afterwards he worked for New York investment firms. In his business dealings, he became the owner and CEO of four Pittsburgh steel companies.
The self-made millionaire collected world class contemporary art as aggressively as he conducted business. And, for 25 years, from 1938 until his death in 1963, along with the Dalí, Picasso, and Chase pieces he sent works by Milton Avery, Ernest Lawson of the Ashcan School of Artists and Maurice Prendergast to Peru High School in memory of Whittenberger, his favorite teacher.
He donated art that he thought would interest teachers and students. Fifty-four pieces of priceless Asian pottery dating from 215 B.C. were housed in a closet when they weren’t being used as teaching tools in ceramics classes. Some paintings were hung around the school, but as the collection grew, more objects went into storage.
With the help of Connie Cutler of the Peru Community Schools Arts Alive! Program and the school board, which budgeted $250,000, the school’s theater department’s technical workshop became the Peru Community Schools Art Gallery. And, for the first time in 75 years, the G. David Thompson collection is being shown in its entirety.
"There is nothing snobbish about art," G. David Thompson said, "Art is what appeals to a person. It belongs to everyone who can enjoy it..familiarity is the best way to develop appreciate for beautiful things."
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