Undisclosed location of Thomas Hart Benton Painting Owned by Shawnee Mission District
A previous class of what is now Shawnee Mission North each contributed $1 to purchase Thomas Hart Benton‘s “Utah Highlands” as a class gift to their school. Over time the exact class year has become murky. It’s remembered to be the class of 1957, 1958, or a combination of both classes. In any case, the contribution given by 750 students would be today’s equivalent of $6,300.
For years this painting found a home on the school library gathering appreciation for the beauty and skill of one Kansas’ most important Regionalist Art Movement leaders. After the 21×28 gouache on paper “Utah Highlands” was appraised at $700,000 the original was taken from the school’s walls and replaced with a photograph of the painting. Most agree that the painting should be available for public appreciation. In the past a proposal to sell the painting for needed funds was turned down. But where is it now?
Shawnee Mission District will not disclose the location of the original work. Understandably, this is causing some distress among some of the patrons and alum. District spokesperson, Leigh Anne Neal, states the painting is not missing but in a secure location that they prefer not to disclose. Although the need for security isn’t debatable their stance does beg the question: “Why all the secrecy? ”
Where’s the Thomas Hart Benton painting? Shawnee Mission district isn’t saying
“Isn’t art supposed to be viewed? If they sold it, fine. If they didn’t, why all the secrecy?” Michael T. White, a Kansas City lawyer and jazz musician, also was in the class of ’58. The painting, he said, “used to hang in the hall. I remember we used …