Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Several extremely valuable paintings, once in the possession of Juab High School, are missing.
"Any one who has a knowledge of any of the paintings should write a brief description of them, so it can be established that, at one time, the school owned them," said Mike Morgan, Nephi City Police Chief.
Many letters have now been collected and Morgan has interviewed those who were in administrative positions at the school since the paintings were last remembered as hanging in the hallways of the high school.
When Leonard Trauntvein retired as principal of the high school, the paintings were in place.
Since then, Andy Cindrich, Rick Durban and Rick Robins have served in that position. No one remembers, said Morgan, the paintings being moved to the new high school.
It is unclear when the paintings disappeared, said Morgan.
Many educators remember the paintings hanging on the walls of the school but, since that time, the then high school has become the junior high, he said.
He said that there were yearbook photos taken which showed one or another of the paintings in the background. Those photos provide a sort of timeline. However, no photos were taken of just the paintings.
Morgan began his investigation of the missing paintings more than a year ago, he said.
Missing are: The Fallen Giant, painted by Floyd Breinholt was purchased by Clark "Sam" Newell. It was a painting of a large pine tree that had fallen in the forest.
Two paintings by Paul Salisbury: One was of two Indian horses, a colt and two women and a child and, the second was a red rock scene, both purchased by Newell.
Ghost of Creede, painted by Dean Fausett and purchased by Sam Newell. It was a painting of an old mining town in Creede, Colorado. The heirs of Fausett, several years ago, requested that they be allowed to purchase the painting for many thousands of dollars but, at that time, the board of education refused the request.
Two paintings by Max Blain of Ephraim, Utah. Both paintings were water colors. One was of a fall mountain scene with it's splendor of colors.
A J.T. Harwood painting which was hanging in the counselor's office at the old high school, which is now the Juab County building. It did come to the new high school which is now the junior high. Jim White, retired art teacher, identified the Utah artist.
A mountain scene by Rosco Grover (1952) is still sitting on the floor, in the conference room, at the high school.
A print, Vietnam Reflections, by Lee Teter, was a framed and matted print of the Vietnam Wall in Washington D.C. and showed some ghostly soldier figures, with their hands on the wall, touching the hand of a mourning person.
"That print has been recovered," said Morgan. "It was in the possession of a former teacher of the school. The print was returned in July 2010."
The print, while valued at $400 without the frame, was the least valuable of the missing art work. It could be replaced but none of the paintings, since they were all originals, can be replaced.
There were also paintings donated to the school by Jim White, while he was art teacher at the school.
"We think we have located all of those," said Morgan.
Shirleen Newell, wife of Clark "Sam" Newell, remembered when her husband, acting as Juab High School Principal, purchased the paintings by Brienholt and Salisbury.
"I wrote a letter to Dr. Kirk Wright (then superintendent) telling of the purchase of those paintings," said S. Newell.
In addition to their monetary value, she said, they had a great sentimental value. Her husband thought it important to expose the youth of the community to great art produced by Utah artists.
With the exception of the print by Teter, all of the work was done by Utah-originated artists who became renowned over the years. After death, paintings by well-known artists increase in value.
"I remember when the Fausett painting was purchased," said Leonard Trauntvein, former principal. "My wife, Myrna, and I traveled to Price, Carbon County, and picked it up after being given that assignment by Sam Newell."
The two Max Blain paintings were selected by teachers Jim White and Leonard Trauntvein from paintings at Blain's Ephraim studio.
"After they were framed, I traveled to Ephraim and picked them up," he said.
The Vietnam wall print was purchased for the school by Leonard Trauntvein when he was at a conference in New Orleans.
Connie Lofgren, secretary at the school for many years, said she was saddened by the missing paintings which should have remained in the possession of the school district as a legacy for the community.
"Some school districts keep track of valuable paintings on their inventory lists but that was not done," said Lofgren.
There may be other paintings missing which have not been identified.
"I am not done with the investigation," said Morgan. "It is continuing but I am at the stage where I can release the basic information about the paintings, what we are doing to recover them and how our investigation is proceeding."
The school storage areas and classrooms have been searched. In addition, said Morgan, he has visited the homes and offices of those who were previously employed in administrative positions.
He has reviewed the letters educators and former educators have submitted.
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