When searching for an adequate description for the small town of Lucas, Kansas quite a few words come to mind- quirky, unique, one-of-a-kind, odd, eccentric – but none seem to be quite enough. Lucas is a town that must be experienced, and even then you may not be able to fully absorb all that you have seen.
Grassroots Art Capital of Kansas
Grassroots art can defy definition. Artists may be called visionaries or crazy- depending on who is viewing their work. These self-taught artists tend to be older and utilize recycled materials- what many of us would term “junk” or “trash”. They work for their own pleasure and, often, their work is destroyed upon their death. The Grassroots Art Center works to save these (often unappreciated) works and brings them together in one location. While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, you’re sure to view sculptures that will inspire you, metal work that you would love to have on your own wall and some things that will make you wonder what, exactly, the artist was thinking.
Many of the art displays are hands on, like the electric mish-mash display above (my girls wanted to re-visit this one again and again) and the metal sculpture below.
The collection that most amazed me was created by Herman Divers. His medium of choice was aluminum can pull tabs. Nothing was out of reach- a roadster and motorcycle are of a size to be ridden, clothing and furniture could be worn or used.
Directly behind the center is the Post Rock Outdoor Courtyard Exhibit, a tribute to the stone masons who worked in the area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries utilizing the plentiful limestone for building and fencing.
The Grassroots Art Center should be your first stop in Lucas. (Adults $6, kids 6-12 $2.50; website)
More Art Around Lucas
Lucas has attracted grassroots artists for years, so many that a drive around town can lead you do dozens of interesting installments. The Garden is Isis is a sight- both inside and out. Artwork by Mri-Pilar covers every square inch of this house- and quite a bit of it is for sale. Created with cast off toys many items are for sale. I adored this Barbie book…
Rock gardens, a Snow Globe Palace, The World’s Largest Collection of the World’s Smallest Versions of the World’s Largest Things, and the Bowl Plaza Public Restrooms are only a few of the unexpected works you will encounter during your self-guided tour.
The Garden of Eden
The first- and undoubtedly most famous- grassroots art in Lucas is the Garden of Eden. The home is built of cut limestone logs and the surrounding grounds are adorned with cement statues depicting everything from Biblical scenes (Adam and Eve greet you) to political messages (the crucification of labor). I found the house and gardens to be unique, of course, but rather unsettling. Created by Samuel Dinsmoor- Civil War soldier, former school teacher and Populist politician- the house and ground are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. For a fee you can tour the house- and even gaze upon the creator of this masterpiece as he lies entombed in his glass coffin in his limestone mausoleum. (Adults $6, children 6-12 $1; website)
Food and Lodging in Lucas
Strangely enough, there are few places to eat or stay in Lucas. You’ll want to stop at Brant’s Meat Market, famous for the Czechoslovakian bologna and other homemade smoked meats.
For dining and overnight stays suggest heading south a few miles to nearby Wilson. There you will find the cozy Simple Haven Bed and breakfast, the historic Midland Hotel, home cooking at Made from Scratch or snacks at the Snack Shack.