Afloat: Artists and Rivers

Exhibit Details

December 12, 2020 - February 28, 2021

Southwest Missouri is home to numerous natural resources. Easy access to beautiful parks, trails, and waterways is an important draw for tourists and residents alike. But it may come as a surprise that the Ozarks, and the Current and Buffalo Rivers in particular, were at the forefront of the national effort to protect this country’s natural rivers.

The beauty of Ozark rivers attracted enough advocates to stop the building of a dam along the Current River in 1949, and to create America’s first “explicitly protected river corridor” in 1964, with the development of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, managed by the National Park Service.

One of these staunch advocates was none other than Missouri artist Thomas Hart Benton who voiced his support towards protecting his favorite rivers – the Current, the Buffalo, and the White; sites that he floated on a regular basis and that were featured extensively in his work.

Ozark rivers continue to serve as inspiration and respite for our community, and for our artists. This exhibition, pulled entirely from the Museum’s collection, explores a wide range of river-based work from our local rivers and beyond, reflecting upon the importance of this resource as both a natural amenity and a source of artistic inspiration.

a landscape painting made in watercolor showing a stream filled with leaves winding through a stream

Sharon Zimmerman, Turkey Run II, 2000, watercolor on paper. Collection of the Springfield Art Museum. © Sharon Zimmerman


I lost the rivers for part of my life. I took them up again after I came back again (to Missouri) in 1935.

                                                         - Thomas Hart Benton