Missouri murals come alive in HD

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A portion of Thomas Hart Benton’s mural from the walls of the House Lounge in the Missouri state capitol building in Jefferson City

Using tempera paint, muralist Thomas Hart Benton told the story of Missouri’s history on the walls of the House Lounge in the Missouri state capitol building. Missouri S&T’s Jim Bogan brought the mural, and its creator, to life in his video Tom Benton’s Missouri. This fall, the film was re-mastered in high definition and re-released to mark its 20th anniversary.


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“We wanted to try to recreate for the viewer the experience of standing in the House Lounge and looking in wonder at this mural,” says Bogan. “We hope that seeing the film in high definition will be like looking through the eyes of a sensitive and knowledgeable spectator.”

Originally released in 1992, the award-winning documentary directed by Bogan, Curators’ Teaching Professor emeritus of art history and film at Missouri S&T, and Frank Fillo, former director of the University of Missouri System’s Cooperative Media Group, was shown widely around the country on PBS stations and exhibited in schools around the state on VHS.

The new version is available in a downloadable HD format. It includes an educator’s guide with lesson plans, background information on the mural, and lyrics and music from the film.
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Part of the restoration process involved refining the colors to make them truer to the original tempera of the mural. Bogan and Fillo used 16-millimeter film instead of videotape to make the original movie because film does a better job of capturing the boldness of the mural’s colors, Bogan says.

“Film is truer to the colors Benton used, like the red-orange of Frankie’s dress” in the panel that portrays the mythic “Frankie and Johnny” shooting in a St. Louis barroom, Bogan says.
The film’s soundtrack, also enhanced during the restoration, features narration by Benton himself and by historian Bob Priddy. Historical ballads written and sung by Bob Dyer provide a musical commentary to Benton’s vivid portrayal of

Missouri history that depicts farmers, slaves, politicians, housewives, factory workers, children and businessmen.

“The mural is intended to portray a variety of people involved in their natural, daily activities that did not require being polite,” Bogan says.

“The Educator’s Guide to Tom Benton’s Missouri” contains lessons in art, music, history and communication arts that are customized to suit students from 4th grade through college. Luce Myers, lecturer in art at Missouri S&T, Kathleen Unrath, associate professor of art education at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and Abbey Trescott, a teacher at Rock Bridge High School in Columbia, Mo., worked together to produce the guide.

“This comprehensive study guide is full of interdisciplinary and cooperative learning lessons focusing on three enduring ideas found in the Benton murals — power, story and regional social identity,” says Myers. “It includes Missouri National History Standards for 4th grade and is a good companion for teachers who want to make that history come alive.”

Michael Hicks, film and video producer with the UM Extension Cooperative Media Group oversaw the technical challenges of turning 16mm film in digital HD format. Fillo, co-director of the original film, coordinated the section on music, which now offers some of the best recordings available of Bob Dyer’s songs about Missouri history. Gerald “Jack” Brown, a senior in civil engineering at Missouri S&T, and Jessica Hicks, an art education student at MU, served as research assistants on the project.

“Benton was once asked, ‘Why do you paint murals?'” Bogan says. “His answer? ‘Because I can put more stuff in them.'”

by Mary Helen Stoltz

Tom Benton’s Missouri and two other films by Professor Bogan will be screened on Oct. 23 as part of S&T’s Free Fall 2012 Film Festival.

Comments

  1. Kara Kopplin Krawat says

    A new generation can discover Benton and his larger than life depictions of American heroes, villans, and everyone in between, thanks to Jim Bogan and this new HD release. You did a beautiful job merging the visuals, history lessons, music and quotes. I still like “and the gun went rooty-toot toot!” It was an honor to play an extremely minor part in the production of this film, as a student 20(!)years ago. My parents and grandparents all watched it’s PBS debut way back then.
    Sending you warm wishes with fond memories, Dr. Bogan.
    Kara

  2. Kara Kopplin Krawat says

    A new generation can discover Benton and his larger than life depictions of American heroes, villans, and everyone in between, thanks to Jim Bogan and this new HD release. You did a beautiful job merging the visuals, history lessons, music and quotes. I still like “and the gun went rooty-toot toot!” It was an honor to play an extremely minor part in the production of this film, as a student 20(!)years ago. My parents and grandparents all watched it’s PBS debut way back then.
    Sending you warm wishes with fond memories, Dr. Bogan.
    Kara

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