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Former SDSU President Donates Works to 50th Anniversary Harvey Dunn Exhibition

All Dunn exhibit at South Dakota Art Museum
A sample of the "All Dunn" exhibit at the South Dakota Art Museum. The exhibit runs to Aug. 15, 2021, and recently added five works from the personal collection of former SDSU president Peggy Gordon Miller.

Story written by: Matthew Schmidt

Former South Dakota State University president Peggy Gordon Miller has donated five Harvey Dunn original paintings to the South Dakota Art Museum.

The original works offer a rich depiction of Dunn’s diverse talents, including three illustrations, a nude portrait and an advertisement. Completed in 1927, the advertisement originally appeared in “The Saturday Evening Post” and “National Geographic,” and is one of only two advertisement pieces in the Harvey Dunn Collection.

“It’s an honor for the South Dakota Art Museum to receive this incredible gift from President Miller,” said Jodi Lundgren, interim director and exhibitions curator. “Gifting these priceless treasures to the museum is another meaningful notch in President Miller’s impressive and impactful legacy of aspiration, growth, generosity and service.”

Originally slated to be on display May 2020 through January 2021, the exhibition faced delays in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now open and adhering to social distancing guidelines, the exhibition debuted Aug. 17 and run through Aug. 15, 2021. Miller’s donation arrived just in time for a special 50th anniversary exhibition, “All Dunn,” at the South Dakota Art Museum, honoring the original opening of the museum with an extensive look at one of the state’s most beloved artists.

Both Dunn and his paintings have close ties to South Dakota State University. A native of De Smet, Dunn attended the university when it was the South Dakota Agricultural College. After a successful first exhibition in 1950, Dunn was so moved by the public’s response to his works that he donated approximately 40 pieces to the people of South Dakota, naming the South Dakota Agricultural College as custodian. Since then, the collection has grown to 145 total works, including those donated by Miller. The museum now hosts the largest collection of Dunn’s paintings in the world.

“We’re thrilled to preserve and share them [the paintings] for the enrichment of the campus community and our many other visitors,” said Lundgren. “The paintings belong to the people of South Dakota now.”