It’s been more than a week since Sedalia lost a great man and an admirable local benefactor in Dr. Harold F. Daum. He was a World War II veteran, radiologist, and one of Missouri’s top cultivators of day lily flowers.
But here in Sedalia he probably won’t be remembered for his wartime heroics, medical career or green thumb. In the State Fair City, when you think Daum you think art, and even though it is sad the world has lost such a great man, his name will live forever in West Central Missouri and in the minds of those who appreciate great art everywhere.
There are those who are relatively well-off in this world who choose to hoard money like they’ve got a swimming pool to fill and amuse themselves with grand collections that they only allow their most prestigious colleagues to view. But that doesn’t mean capitalism is a crime and that we should take up our torches and pitchforks and prepare for the great class war.
However, I’ve got to imagine it’s hard to maintain a truly private art collection for long. Each day Rich Uncle Pennybags walks into his grandiose private study and admires the art on the walls. But there are only so many walls to display the art, and only so many people he is comfortable allowing into his mansion to admire it. Anyone who really loves art would eventually realize it is meant to be seen, experienced and enjoyed on a personal level by anyone who seeks it out.
Dr. Harold F. Daum knew that great art should be shared with the people.
Harold Daum was born in 1923 in Crete, Nebraska, which is about 300 miles away from Sedalia, but even though he is a native Nebraskan he must have come to love Sedalia. You don’t donate most of your beloved art collection and even go so far as to donate some serious cash to build a grand museum space to house it all unless you love the city that it will call home and the people who live there.
I imagine there’s at least one person in Crete who still isn’t very happy the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art isn’t located on the scenic rural campus of Doane College. But we’re definitely thankful it ended up here.
The campus of State Fair Community College is filled with buildings that are named after the people who helped make it into the great institute of learning we see today. We casually refer to the Stauffacher, Yeater, Fielding and Daum, but maybe it would do us well to spare a thought for the great men who put in the work to deserve having these buildings named after them.
So in honor of the man who saw fit to assist in the establishment of a grand museum right here in the Queen City of the Prairies, we should all go and pay a visit to the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art. They’re open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and it’s always free to get in, but that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t use a little help when it comes to maintaining such a great space and even potentially acquiring new pieces for display.
So before you go, fish those nickels out of the couch and grab that change from the ashtray in your car and put it into the acrylic glass donation cube near the entrance of the museum in memory of one of the city’s great art benefactors.
Travis McMullen is a longtime Sedalia resident who shares his views on the city through his weekly Democrat column.