‘Kansa’ finds a home
Kansa, the artwork that uses the earth as its canvas and plants as its paints, will be dedicated during an official ceremony at 2 p.m. Thursday, April 25, on the west side of the Johnson County Community College campus.
Stan Herd, a Lawrence artist known internationally for his “earthworks,” created the piece on a quarter acre of land between the outdoor horticulture garden and the road leading to the sports parking lots.
Scheduled to speak at the dedication are Herd; James Leiker, director, Kansas Studies Institute; Terry Calaway, JCCC president; and Melody Rayl, chair of the JCCC board of trustees. Ron Brave, representing the Center for American Indian Studies, will give special tribute to the land and the art.
The public is invited to attend this free event.
Refreshments will be served after the ceremony on the terrace of the nearby Horticulture Science Center (HSC). In case of rain, the dedication ceremony and refreshments will be moved inside HSC.
Kansa is a collaboration among many departments on campus. Support and funding of the piece came from the Kansas Studies Institute, the Center for American Indian Studies, the Student Sustainability Committee, the art history department, the horticultural sciences department, the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art and the president’s office.
How did the idea of an earthwork at JCCC take shape?
Herd visited JCCC in November 2010 as a guest speaker for the Kansas Studies Institute. He talked about prairie art and introduced students to his own work.
Leiker said, “At the time, the organizers [of the event] said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if he could do something here?’ We began to work almost immediately on a way to get him back to campus.”
Where did the design come from?
The unique artwork is a petroglyph inside the circle, inspired in part by author William Least Heat Moon’s “PrairyErth” drawing of an ancient petroglyph in a book of the same name, Herd said.
Also adding inspiration were drawings and Native American objects offered by Bruce Hartman, executive director of the Nerman Museum.
The Center for American Indian Studies at JCCC also provided advice in choosing an indigenous design. Sean Daley, associate professor, anthropology, and director of the center, with help from center associates Ed Smith and Travis Brown, settled on a circular figure, representing cycles and harmony.
What does Kansa look like?
“Buckskin” limestone rocks from Oklahoma are set in a circle with a 90-foot diameter. The stones get their name from their yellowish-brown hue, resembling the color of deerskins.
“When I first started, I thought I’d use only Kansas stones, but then I realized, ‘Hey, we’re only a few miles from Missouri.’ It’s a regional piece, not a Kansas piece,” he said.
Near the top of the circle, a rock formation will gather rainwater and hold it for a few hours after a rain – a natural birdbath and watering hole that adds yet another earthy element to the piece, Herd said.
The rest of the earthwork will be planted in a mixture of annuals and perennials of different colors, textures and heights.“There will be two or three areas where the (horticultural science) students can plant with annuals to their liking, even after I’m gone,” Herd said. “I also like the idea that we might use some of these planting-bed areas to experiment with something so it becomes an outdoor classroom.”