Grassroots Art Mecca: Garden of Eden, Bowl Plaza part of WONDER-ful day trip

By Becky Fitzgerald on April 4, 2013

Between 2007 and 2010, the Kansas Sampler Foundation sponsored contests to determine the top 8 Wonders of Kansas. More than 100,000 people voted to determine winners and finalists in the categories of Architecture, Art, Commerce, Cuisine, Customs, Geography, History, People, and overall. 

Residents and Passport members are invited to join Amanda Rall and Becky Fitzgerald for a trip to Lucas, Kan., for tours of the 4th Wonder in the Art category: the Garden of Eden and the Grassroots Art Center. This artsy adventure is set for Thursday, May 16. 

After arriving in Lucas, the first item on our agenda is a bathroom break, but we won't be stopping at just any public restroom. Rather, Bowl Plaza (pictured below) is part of the Grassroots Arts Center and is a fine example of "art made by people with no formal artistic training using ordinary materials in an extraordinary way." We will know we've arrived when we see a giant roll of "toilet paper" sitting next to a giant "toilet." The entire structure is covered in unbelievable mosaics created by Mri Pilar of broken bits and knick-knacks of all sorts.

A guided tour of the Grassroots Arts Center, Postrock Courtyard, Deeble Rock Garden, Garden of Isis and G-Wiz Garage will be followed by a meal designed by Grassroots Postrock Meals to specifically highlight the art of Lucas. 

Our next stop will be at the former home of S.P. Dinsmoor, now known as the Garden of Eden. In addition to hitting No. 4 on the Art Wonders list, Garden of Eden comes in at No. 18 on the Overall Wonders list -- there are 24 wonders in each category -- and was named to the National Register of Historic Places.The Garden of Eden is a prime example of Kansas folk art. Dinsmoor started the project in 1907 with the construction of his limestone log cabin. His creative focus later moved outside to his garden, where he used 113 tons of cement to construct 40-foot tall "trees" to display his sculptures, which reflect his views on society and politics. Also found in the garden is Dinsmoor's personal mausoleum. 

According to local lore, Dinsmoor's wife often complained she didn't see him enough, so he crafted a self-portrait just outside the kitchen window so she could always see him waving to her.

Wowed by the creativity of past and present folk artists, we'll begin our return trip to Manhattan, stopping at yet another Wonder for supper. Abilene's Brookville Hotel is reminiscent of the original 1870's Brookville landmark, and the family-style fried chicken dinners served there rank No. 2 in the Cuisine category. The menu includes generous helpings of relishes, sweet-sour cole slaw, cottage cheese, fried chicken, mashed potatoes with cream gravy, cream-style corn, biscuits with butter and preserves and vanilla ice cream.

Departure time on May 16 is 8:30 a.m. from the Village entrance. Cost of the trip will vary depending on the number of participants and mode of transportation, but it is expected to be between $55 and $65. This fee includes two meals, guided tours at the attractions and transportation. 

Want to join us for this WONDER-ful adventure? Please register in the Blue Book. May is a typically beautiful month to explore Kansas, and Lucas's Grassroots Arts Mecca deserves a look!