Merriam art gallery receives significant donation to permanent collection

Prairie Landscape by Jean Van Harlingen.
Prairie Landscape by Jean Van Harlingen.

Merriam’s art gallery, located in the Irene B. French Community Center, has received a significant new gift for its permanent collection.

The four-by-eight foot work is an abstract prairie landscape in muted colors that uses dyed paper. The family of longtime Kansas City artist Jean Van Harlingen donated the piece, valued at more than $2,500, to the City of Merriam after her death.

The artwork is now hanging on the mezzanine level at the community center coming down the stairs from the third floor art gallery.

Van Harlingen had a long career in art working in different media, including oils, sculpture and fiber, which became a specialty. She was born in Dayton, Ohio and attended The Ohio State University and the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. She taught at Johnson County Community College, Avila, UMKC and Park University dating back to the late 1980s.

She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 24 and died in November 2014 at age 67. According to a tribute by her twin sister, Van Harlingen continued to produce art even though her last few years were spent in a wheelchair and she became blind in one eye. She had been in a nursing home in the Merriam area for the last eight years.

Merriam’s art gallery includes pieces in a permanent collection as well as other pieces that rotate each month. Most of the rotating pieces are for sale. They are chosen for display in an annual competitive call for art. The gallery is open during community center hours.