In 1910, McPherson superintendent George Pinney, aided by art dealer Carl Smalley, staged the first Art Exhibition at the McPherson High School. Using admission proceeds, two works by Sandzen were purchased at the 1910 show. Thus began the fine collection held by McPherson USD 418 today.
In 1922 McPherson Art Exhibition drew 2000 people. In 1923, International Studio magazine hailed Smalley as the "John the Baptist of Art". That same year, the Kansas City Star proclaimed McPherson as " . . . one of the coming Art Centers in the county."
When the Art Exhibitions ended in 1936, the district's collection contained 120 works of original art. This collection forms the basis for the current art collection.
In celebration of their 25th anniversary, the McPherson Arts Council launched an effort to restore the McPherson USD 418 art collection. A comprehensive inventory was completed in 2001. This professional assessment includes artist biographies and historic information as well as notes about the unrestored condition of the individual pieces.
Working from the list, the art collection advisory board has begun restoration of this important collection. Approximately 20 prints have been bleached, de-acidified and reframed in archival quality mountings. Expenses incurred to date have been covered by the school district and by donations from the McPherson Arts Council.
Much work is yet to be done in restoring the collection. There are approximately 200 individual pieces with many of them requiring some level of restorative work. Though this will be a long and arduous task. The art collection advisory board is committed to bringing the collection, its preservation, and its care back to the professional standards it deserves.