Local philanthropists John R. and Eleanor R. Mitchell created Cedarhurst for enjoyment and education. The Mitchells were active collectors for more than four decades and acquired a highly prized collection of late 19th and early 20th century American paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts. Upon their deaths, they left their entire estate for the benefit of residents and visitors in southern Illinois. Their legacy has been enjoyed by thousands of individuals since the Mitchell Museum opened November 2, 1973.
The Permanent Collection includes works by Thomas Eakins; Robert Henri, William Glackens, George Luks, John Sloan, Arthur B. Davies, and Maurice Prendergast, members of The Eight; Childe Hassam and J. Alden Weir, members of The Ten; and Mary Cassatt and John Singer Sargent, among others.
Initiated, in 1992, Cedarhurst Sculpture Park combines art and nature on 90 acres of meadows, woods, pond and nature trail. The museum's open-air gallery features over 60 large-scale sculptures by many well-known artists, including Dennis Oppenheim, Alexander Liberman, Fletcher Benton and Chakaia Booker. A playful acquisition is Martha Enzmann's Dancers, a male and female figure that “dance” in the pond behind the Mitchell Museum.