I have my first exam next week, and that is making me miss summer break already, especially summer road trips. This year my mother and I went to Colorado to visit some friends. On the way there we took a day to see some sights in Kansas. We discovered that Kansas is actually home to some spectacular grassroots art, or art made by people with no formal training, usually from recycled materials. There were a few roadside examples, like an 80-foot Van Gogh re-creation, or a dragon made from farm equipment, but the crown jewel was Lucas, Kansas. Home to the Grassroots Art Center and Bowl Plaza, the most beautiful public toilet in America, Lucas was a treasure.
At the Grassroots Art Center you could see works from Kansas artists as well as out of state artists. Some of the works are made from uncommon materials, like Herman Drivers’ art, a car made from nothing but pull-tabs. Since none of the artists had any formal art training, many of the artists came to art through times of illness or retirement. One of the most prolific artists at the center was Inez Marshall, who broke her back in the late 1930’s and had to spend a year bedridden. During that time, she discovered her passion for carving limestone sculptures. For the next 51 years, she carved over 100 detailed sculptures from Kansas limestone, ranging from a covered wagon, to a Model T, to President Lincoln.
The largest work of art in Lucas, however, is not at the Grassroots Art Center, but just down the block. There you will find Bowl Plaza, a public restroom like no other. Shaped like a toilet seat with a roll of toilet paper next to it, the facility is covered in mosaics, most of which were designed by local grassroots artist Mri-Pilar. It is truly a sight to see, and a very clean restroom to boot.
So, if you are in the area, and in the mood for some eccentric art, I highly recommend that you take a detour to Lucas, Kansas.