Tom Benton

Curriculum

Are you inspired to learn and teach about the vivid cultural history of Missouri? What about a unique sampling of America through the dynamic color palette of one of America’s foremost regionalist painters? Then why not take a trip through history via a portrayal by America’s most accomplished, prolific muralist and visual historian — Thomas Hart Benton — as he memorializes cultural history and mythology in a factual, poetic and mesmerizing style?

Visualize your students collaborating in cross-curricular lessons combining social science, history, communication arts and humanities, as outlined in the educator's guide, and stepping into the past while comparing and connecting it to the present.

Packed full of vibrant historic references, the Benton mural images reveal the transportation, politics, economy, landscape and music of ordinary people. In addition, the complex social conditions are revealed, representing the racial and cultural diversity of a time and place.

Benton’s curvilinear rhythms of line, shape and color are rendered with the skill of Michelangelo and the Midwest grit of the pioneer spirit, making the stories jump off the wall. This artistry highlights the diversity of characters in both his factual and mythological narratives of Missouri history. The panels depicting Huckleberry Finn, Jesse James and Frankie and Johnnie are unified symbolically by the echoing shapes throughout the landscape. These visual and social elements are joined in an exemplary way, culminating in a powerful stimulus for teaching students of every age and discipline. The “Tom Benton’s Missouri“ mural documentary is the perfect accompaniment to the study of Missouri history.

The curriculum offers valuable resources to accompany the mural documentary, and this educator's guide is available on the Downloads page.

About the curriculum developers

Lucille Myers

Lucille J. (Luce) Myers is a full-time studio and lecturer of art at Missouri School of Science and Technology, and she has spent twenty years as an art educator in public schools. Myers is also a songwriter of lyrics published in several journals and has produced five CDs, including a children’s album about art and the environment. She is active in her community, serving in various organizations and with educational arts programs. In addition to her work developing this project, Myers and her husband Rich offer music assemblies on the song and art of "Tom Benton’s Missouri" in Missouri Public schools.

Abbey Trescott

Abbey Trescott is an art specialist at Rock Bridge High School in Columbia, Mo.

Kathleen Unrath

Kathleen Unrath is an associate professor of art education at the University of Missouri and a widely-exhibited fibers artist. Her published research focuses on how art education students emerge into the teacher self and the role of reflection in the process of meaning making. Unrath received the NAEA Women’s Caucus Mary J. Rouse Award in 2004, the 2008 Missouri Higher Education Art Educator of the Year, the University of Missouri Provost’s Teaching and Advising Award in 2005, and the 2012 Maxine Christopher Shutz Award for Distinguished Teaching. Her work on the Benton project combined this devotion to the arts and excellence in education techniques.