Awards presented to Area Artists

Neosho Arts Council presented the 21st Annual Thomas Hart Benton Art Competition and Exhibition Saturday September 10. The event judge, Cynthia Brown, was on hand to present over a dozen awards to area artists.


Brown is a professional abstract painter from Tulsa, OK. She holds an MFA from the University of Tulsa, has worked as an art teacher, and been featured in a number of solo and two person exhibitions. Recently Brown was selected to take part in an artist residency at the Mark Rothko Art Centre, Daugavpils, Latvia.


Awards were presented in two divisions, professional artist and emerging artist. This year overall Best of Show was presented to Carol Melton for her charcoal piece “Good Old Days.”


“I was shocked,” commented Melton after winning. “I'm very appreciative because there was a lot of good work in the show."


In the professional division first place went to Patti Beavers for her oil painting “Shadows on Beaver Branch,” second place to Jim Bray for “Hiding Places,” third place to Jeffrey Jones for “On The Road,” and fourth place to Dan McWilliams for “Barn Quilt.”


In the emerging division first place went to Jodie Sutton for “Untitled” an encaustic piece, second place to Trish Robinson for “Nacho,” third place to Karlene Heinkel for “Dave,” and fourth place to Shelby Moe for “Adore That Denial.”


A selection of merit awards were presented to artists from both divisions including: Merit in Oil to Jack Sours for “Kneading Bread,” Merit in Acrylic to Melody Knowles for “Stop It! Everyone,” Merit in Watercolor to Debbie Reed for “Waltz of the Llamas,” Merit Award for Works on Paper to Sarah Serio for “Bound By Invisible Chains,” Merit Award for Unique Media to Diana Bray for “Families In The Natural World,” and the Mary Ellen Pitts Memorial Pastel Award was presented to Linda Willard for “After The Storm.”

Started two decades ago, by area artists Pam Leisenring and Mary Ellen Pitts, the event is designed to honor Neosho native and renowned artist Thomas Hart Benton while promoting the work of area student, emerging and professional artists. 

For the past five years artists Becky Golubski and April Davis have had the pleasure of being Co-Directors of the exhibition. “It’s been such an honor to work with April and see this event grow,” commented Golubski. “The Thomas Hart Benton Art Competition and Exhibition has a special place in my heart and I’ve enjoyed getting to work to see the event take place for the last several years.” 

“We are excited to take on this event and make sure it continues,” Donna Divine-Jones, President of Neosho Arts Council, said.  The group wanted to ensure this event with it’s rich history and ties to Neosho remains in the city. “One of our main goals as an organization is to not only exhibit works by area artists but to bring in a show to our community filled with outstanding and diverse work.”

The exhibition will be on display at the Big Spring Gallery inside the Neosho Area Chamber located at 216 West Spring St, Neosho, Mo through the end of the month during business hours.

The complete judges critique and awards presentation is available to view at For more information visit