Central Illinois Art Exposition, Scottish Rite Temple, March 19 – April 8, 1939
The Central Illinois Art Exposition was possibly the most successful diversion in McLean County during the Great Depression. The drive to bring the paintings of important artists to Bloomington was led by Pantagraph publisher Loring Merwin and Roland’s department store owner Raymond Wakeley. The Exposition ran at the Scottish Rite Temple (now known as the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts) in Bloomington for three weeks from March 19 to April 8, 1939. The artists featured at the Exposition included masters such as Titian, Rembrandt, El Greco, Manet, Monet, Renoir and contemporary artists including the now-famous Grant Wood. The National Guard was on hand to protect the masterpieces throughout the exposition. The exposition was viewed by approximately 42,000 people from 97 towns in the surrounding counties, 20,000 of which were students.