The Newton County Historical Society will again celebrate the life and work of Thomas Hart Benton with a Benton Birthday Bash, scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Saturday, two days before what would have been the artist's 124th birthday.

The event, to be held at the Newton County Historical Park, 121 N. Washington, in Neosho, will include birthday cake, punch and a presentation about Benton's work.

Linda Anderson, a member of the historical society and co-organizer of the event, said the bash is held each year to remember the Neosho native whose artwork allowed him to achieve national and international recognition.

"I think that the community should feel proud to have somebody who has brought this kind of recognition to the community itself through his name," Anderson said. "Neosho, on his 100th birthday, had a huge celebration and so we're just maintaining that celebration."

According to the Newton County Historical Society, Benton was born in Neosho on April 15, 1889. He died in 1975 at the age of 85.

Anderson said organizers look to highlight a different aspect of Benton at the event each year, and this year, will focus on what he is most famous for, his murals.

"He's America's muralist," Anderson said. "What we're trying to do, No. 1, is to bring focus to Benton, we're trying to educate people on the various aspects of Benton."

Last year, the bash highlighted the musical influence on his life and artwork.

Steve Sitton, site administrator of the Thomas Hart Benton Home and Studio in Kansas City, will present a PowerPoint presentation looking at Benton's 14 murals and the Benton home site.

The presentation will include slides on his murals, the technique Benton used in painting them and the reason behind the art selections within the mural.

In addition, the museum's Benton Room will be open and, for the third year in a row, the historical society will offer a collectible pin.

Anderson said the local historical society is not the only organization celebrating Benton's birthday each year, as those from the Benton Home in Kansas City have their own unique way of honoring the late artist.
"They have a birthday celebration every year by going to a saloon and having a drink in his honor," Anderson said.

She said for the Newton County Historical Society, holding the annual Benton Bash is another way to further the society's goal.

"One of the things the museum is trying to do is to educate the populous here on history, and this is one aspect of doing that," she said.

Anderson said there will also be maps available at the event featuring murals in and around Neosho.
The Benton Birthday Bash is open to the public and there is no charge for admission.