The artwork of several artists with ties to Neosho are featured during the Masters of The Vault art show underway at the Longwell Museum within the Elsie Plaster Center on the Crowder College campus.

The artwork of several artists with ties to Neosho are featured during the Masters of The Vault art show underway at the Longwell Museum within the Elsie Plaster Center on the Crowder College campus.
Selected paintings owned by the college and normally stored in the campus vaults are currently on display for a limited time.
 Thomas Hart Benton, a Neosho native, is the best known of the artists. Several of Benton's sketches and paintings are on display through May 26 along with other artwork from the late Don Draper, Daisy Cook, known as the "Grandma Moses of the Ozarks", the late Charles Rush, and others.
In Neosho, young Tom Benton had a reputation as a sometimes wild youth with artistic aspirations.   His father, an attorney and United States Congressman, named his son for his well-known great-uncle.  ME Benton expected his son to follow in his legal and political footsteps but from an early age, Thomas Hart Benton wanted to be an artist.  His mother, Elizabeth Wise Benton, encouraged his aspirations.  After living in Washington DC with his family for almost a decade, Tom Benton scandalized his hometown with gossip after an incident at the notorious House of Lords, a Joplin saloon. Benton's admiration for a nude painting led to a brawl. His insistence he was an artist earned him ridicule but the editor of The Joplin American newspaper challenged him to draw one of the patrons.  Benton did and received a job offer on the spot for a staff artist position, which he accepted.  
Before long, Benton headed for art school in Chicago and on to Paris.  Benton then spent years in New York City before he returned home in 1924 to visit his ill father.  Being back in Neosho inspired Benton to paint ordinary Americans.  Benton's work made him a leader in a new art movement called Regionalism.  He spent most of the 1920's and 1930's painting rural scenes across the nation, from logging camps to steel mills to small towns and farms.  He once said he preferred to paint real people doing real things in real places.  He eventually left New York where some critics found his art to be "too folksy" and lived in Kansas City until his death in 1975.  In 1962, Benton returned to Neosho for a homecoming celebration, accompanied by his wife as well as his friend, President Harry Truman.  
 Draper was a self-taught painter of Ozark mills and landscapes.  Outside Neosho, he's best known for is paintings of fifteen Arkansas Mills.  In the current exhibition, Draper's paintings of Jolly Mill and Pitchy Mile are featured.  Although a Kansas native, Draper and his father had often hunted near Neosho during his early years. Draper later relocated to Neosho In the 1950's and 1960's, Draper began painting landscapes near his home.
Some Neosho residents may remember Rush Jewelry on the Neosho Square, a business presence for more than thirty years.  Charles Rush first came to the area when he was stationed at Camp Crowder during World War II, where he trained for the Army Signal Corps.   In addition to his work as a jeweler and his store, Rush gained a reputation for his landscape and mill scenes.
Southwest Missouri native Daisy Cook enjoyed a long career as a English and math teacher in the Branson area long before she picked up a paint brush.  After retirement, one of her daughters sent home some leftover art supplies from a college course and Daisy tried her hand at painting.  She began painting scenes from farm life in a folk art style similar to Anna Mary Robertson Moses, best known as Grandma Moses who began painting at the age of 78.
Cook's early work caught the attention of Crowder College Art Instructor Richard Boyt, who worked with the artist.  When Crowder College staff realized Cook captured a way of life and lifestyle that would soon be forgotten, a historic documentation of Missouri rural life, the college began acquiring her work.  They now own over 100 of Cook's paintings.  Her painting Church Picnic is among the artwork from Crowder's vault now on display.
Other works of art from regional artists are also part of the current show featuring artwork from the vault that is not always on display.  The Longwell Museum is located in the Elsie Plaster Center on the Neosho campus and is open from 9 a.m. until 6:30  p.m. Monday through Friday.  The Masters of the Vault show continues through May 26.