Thomas Hart Benton: One of Kansas City’s Favorite Sons by Terry Zinn

Even on a short visit to Kansas City, Missouri you can pay homage to artist Thomas HartBenton, and get a feel for his style and the city’s admiration.
A good start is the Thomas Benton Hart Benton Home and Studio State Historic Site at 3616 Belleview Ave. This well preserved home, and studio where the artist worked on paintings, sculptures and his lectures, gives a glimpse into the life and atmosphere and times in which he lived. A slight coating of the dust of time in the carriage house studio adds to the authenticity of the artist’s models, paints, photographs and memorabilia relating to Benton. Tours are given by the personable and enthusiastic Steve Sitton, to groups of one, like me, or more, catering the tour to their particular interest. You may call 816-931-5722 for an appointment.
Off to the Nelson Atkins Museum to see the extensive works on display should be your next Benton venue. If you are lucky you might get a docent who knows a great deal about the Benton collection. Be sure and step into the auditorium to see a large collection of his works, as well as in the adjacent gallery. While there be sure and check out the other mind boggling exhibitions of art. One traveling exhibit that still may be up is an extensive display of large bronze sculptures by Rodin: impressive and overwhelming in their diversity and artistic interpretation.
One of my favorite stops in Kansas City, Missouri is the modern and uplifting Kemper Museum. Here you might see again one of Benton’s works, “Desert Artist” created in 1962, an oil on canvas from the Bebe and Crosby Kemper Collection. Benton lived most of his life, 1889 to 1975, in Kansas City, having been born in Neosho Missouri. Besides the ever changing modern and contemporary art displays, the Kemper is home to the exquisite and gourmet Café Sebastienne, where I have never been disappointed in their imaginative offerings and first class service. Surrounded by impressions of paintings from the masters in an innovated setting, how can one not taste art in all its fullest flavors? Their beverages are indeed art to the eye and the palate.
For other dinners and libations the Gram and Dun, gastro pub in Country Club Plaza is a bustling gathering of upscale locales, whether sitting in a secluded booth or out on the patio where fire may flicker in your companion’s eyes. Kansas City would not be complete without a visit to Gates Bar-B-Q, well known in its six locations to offer the spiciest of sauces in a slick dining atmosphere but with the hustle and excitement of the kitchenonly an glance and ear shot away.
Nearby the Country Club Plaza is a surprise of a bed and breakfast in the Southmoreland On the Plaza Inn. I’m usually not a fan of B & B’s as they can be tight quartered with a feel of intrusion. But not so here. This 1913 Colonial house with twelve guests rooms, a private carriage house suite, balconies, private baths, also offers free parking (a joy), gourmet breakfasts, and even an evening freshly made dessert to send you in to dreamland satiated. Keeping up with your Benton theme they have a room named after the artist, as well as other Kansas City dignitaries. I found the Benton room cozy and the balcony a joy to reminisce over the days explorations into the art and legacy of Thomas Hart Benton.