LUCAS, Kan. (KSNW) – Just off of I-70 in Russell County sits the town of Lucas, the grassroots art capital of Kansas.
The town has a population of just under 400 people. Along Main Street, every light pole is decorated with “grassroots” art, or art minus any formal training. But the quirky art does not stop at the light poles. It’s everywhere.
“When you come to Lucas, we deal with what we call outsider, recycled, intuitive, visionary art,” Grassroots Art Center’s executive director Rosslyn Schultz said.
Schultz explains that 109 Kansans contribute art to Lucas.
“They hit retirement age, they have a pile of junk and they decide ‘Whoopiee! Now I’ve got time to be creative,’ and they will do this until the day they die,” Schultz said.
Statues of scrap metal, rebar, machinery parts, household items and just about everything else is used throughout Lucas.
The “Bowl Plaza” rest stop catches visitors attention when driving through downtown as it resembles a giant toilet bowl, complete with concrete unraveling toilet paper. Thousands of pieces of material make up the mosaic design.
Artist Elizabeth Bryan contributed to the Bowl Plaza before choosing to move to Lucas.
When asked what brought her to Lucas, she said, “the funkiness of it all.”
Grassroots art is deeply embedded in the history of Lucas. One of the founders of grassroots art, Samuel Perry Dinsmoor, is so rooted in the craft, his mummified body is on display inside his mausoleum.
Dinsmoor had this photo created of himself lying in his coffin, where he still lies today. Visitors can view his mummified body through the glass inside his mausoleum.
Dinsmoor was a Civil War veteran passionate about Populist ideas. His way of thinking prompted the building of his “Garden of Eden” display of sculptures surrounding his Lucas home. The concrete sculptures began with Adam and Eve. According to Dinsmoor’s Garden of Eden director Lynn Schneider, the statues are intended to be more political than biblical.
“The goddess of liberty is taking a spear down into the octopus representing the big businesses, trying to destroy the big businesses,” Schneider explains on a tour of the site.
Dinsmoor never passed on a chance to show his humor. His own mausoleum sits on the corner of his lot where he is buried.
Schneider explains the statues outside the mausoleum:
“The angel at the top was to take him to heaven after he died, if he missed out, he did get himself a water jug made out of concrete so he could take it on his way down and have something to drink down in hell, because he heard there wasn’t any water down there,” Schneider said.
It also serves as the final resting place for his first wife, who he dug up from her grave and buried her within the mausoleum.
It’s the abnormality of seeing a mummified body that Schneider credits for bringing 10,000 visitors annually through the site.
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