A new mural, a birthday and a family connection brought muralist Anthony Benton Gude and his mother, Jessie Benton, for a Neosho visit on Wednesday afternoon.
Today, Gude unveils a new Joplin mural near his grandfather, Thomas Hart Benton’s, creation hanging in Joplin City Hall, but Wednesday was a day for review.
Jessie Benton had not been to Neosho since the May 12, 1962, homecoming celebration where her father and Harry S Truman, were welcomed to the town. She shared fond memories of riding in the parade and touring the town and enjoyed looking at the Neosho’s murals painted by her son.
Gude toured his Neosho works, showing them off to his father, mother and her husband.
“It’s good to revisit the works after not seeing them,” Gude said.
He used the opportunity to check his murals’ condition visiting city hall where an 8- by 22-foot work depicts the history of Neosho and stopping by the United Methodist Church where a smaller work tells the story of the 1914 Tipton Ford train accident.
Although Gude said he has no favorites, the intimate, 6- by 10-foot mural holds a special place in his heart because of the thought that went into the composition. The 1914 train wreck brought together a segregated community in memory of those who died, but when Gude first began the project, the committee asked that the focus not be on the train wreck. Gude pushed the flaming train to the background and focused on the memorial service where black and white mourners gather and departed souls move heavenward. H.A. Wood, minister at UMC in 1914, was a speaker at the Tipton Ford mass funeral, and M.E. Benton, father to Thomas Hart Benton, was an influential church member at the time.
“It was a lot of fun to paint that one,” Gude said.
In Joplin, his new work will hang near his grandfather’s 1973 work “Joplin at the Turn of the Century, 1896-1906.” Gude’s work is Route-66 themed and will mirror the 5 ½- by 14-foot size of his predecessor. Thomas Hart Benton was born 121 years ago today.
“Right now, my work is done,” Gude said.
The celebrations and dedications are secondary for him; art comes first.
“The excitement on any of these projects is getting them and getting them done,” he said.
Gude’s new Route 66-themed mural will be unveiled at Joplin City Hall this evening. A reception begins at 5:15 p.m. and the mural will be unveiled at 6 p.m.
A Thomas Hart Benton birthday celebration will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. this Saturday at the Newton County Historical Park with refreshments and displays of Benton’s art and correspondence. For more information, please call 451-4940.
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