17 Marion Pelton Gallery

By Susan Noblett

Marion Pelton standing in front of the pipe organ in her home. She preferred to have the pipe organ in the living room rather than a sofa or chair.
Marion Pelton, 2002, Portraits by LBJ

One of the galleries in the Mary and Morgan Jarvis Wing of the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art is named the Marion Pelton Gallery. Marion was an associate professor of music at Kansas State University from 1927 to 1974. She was born in Reedsburg, Wisconsin, in 1903. She learned to play the piano at an early age, and as a teenager she accompanied silent films at the local movie theater. She attended the University of Wisconsin, and in 1927 she graduated with a degree in music and began her career at K-State. During her years at K-State she took a four-year break and went to Columbia in New York City and earned a master’s degree in organ music. She was the organist at the First Congregational Church and the First United Methodist Church in Manhattan for several years. Marion had a relentless passion for the piano and organ and touched the lives of countless K-State music students over her forty-four years of teaching. She gave generous gifts to the music department, including the endowment of the Marion H. Pelton Scholarship and the Marion H. Pelton Keyboard Scholarship for students of the music department.

Marion also loved the visual arts. She was an award-winning photographer and member of the Photographic Society of America. She was also a painter. During her travels she visited most of the significant art museums across Europe, but her favorite was the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Marion always looked forward to the day that K-State would have an art museum. She was friends with John Helm in the architecture and drawing department and was aware that K-State did not have a permanent home for the large collection of art owned by the university. She was able to see that dream come to fruition when the Beach Museum of Art opened in 1996. Marion passed away in 2001 and left a substantial monetary gift to the Beach Museum of Art. Mary Ellen Sutton and Evelyn Fraizer were the trustees of her estate and when the Jarvis Wing was added to the Beach Museum of Art, her trustees asked that the gift be used for one of the new large galleries. Her gift was a wonderful surprise to the staff of the museum at the time. Mary Ellen Sutton, Evelyn Fraizer, and Marion’s niece, Patricia, were honored at the banquet for donors.

Marion also set up an endowed fund at the Meadowlark Hills Retirement Center to promote the visual arts. The Pelton Gallery at Meadowlark Hills is a concourse named after her. She also gave generously to the Crisis Center, Salvation Army, Manhattan Emergency Center, and the Boys and Girls Club.

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Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art at 25: People and Spaces by Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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