Kansas City once hosted the legendary artist Thomas Hart Benton from 1935 to 1975. His abode, now a historical time capsule since 1977, sits snug in the Roanoke neighborhood near the Nelson Atkins Art Museum. Managed by the Parks and Recreation Department, this spot is the tiniest State Park, occupying just ⅓ of an acre.

As you step into the Benton Property, it’s like walking into a cottage garden. Right away you can see the studio.  As an artist myself, this is the place of dreams. What makes it even better is that it looks as if he just stepped away for lunch. Picture small-scale practice sculptures, works in progress, paint jars, brushes, and canvases strewn about – 

Inside the house, you’ll be treated to a glimpse of books illustrated by Benton, his trusty harmonica, and tales of the famous faces who visited. 

Thomas Hart Benton, a maestro painting in a naturalistic style with a nod to El Greco, revolutionized mural art in America. His masterpieces grace spots across Kansas City, from the Nelson Atkins Museum to The Truman Library in Independence Mo, and occasionally pop up in smaller local museums. I hunt for his work where ever I travel. 

If you have never studied Benton’s work this is the perfect place to start the journey. His career spans through history beginning in 1907 studying at The School of the Art Institute in Chicago and later being an instructor at the Kansas City Art Institute teaching some of the future famous artist. Just a short walk down the road is a home designed by Frank Lloyde Wright. I’d like to think the two of them hung out together at some point, but that’s more research to do for another story.  Sometimes loved and sometimes criticized for the controversy of his work, it was never boring. I encourage you to read his history and see for yourself how our history is reflected in his work.