This is the first in a three-episode series about the Big Kansas Road Trip.
2018 was the inaugural year for the Big Kansas Road Trip (BKRT), a cultural event conceived by the Kansas Sampler Foundation, whose mission is to preserve, sustain, and grow rural culture by educating Kansans about Kansas and by networking and supporting rural communities.
Three Kansas counties and a specific weekend were chosen as the official venue and timeframe for the BKRT. The 2018 counties were Barber, Comanche, and Kiowa, located in the south-central region of Kansas. The towns within the designated counties rolled out the red carpet for visitors, who explored the area and interacted with locals to get firsthand accounts of places, history and legends. This episode is about the highlights from the trip.
A not-to-be-missed highlight of this region is the Gypsum Hills. The 42-mile Gypsum Hills Scenic Byway drive that spans from Medicine Lodge to Coldwater on US60 will change your idea about the geography of Kansas and will take your breath away.
Uncovering Kansas recommends visiting the Chief Theatre, on the National Register of Historical Places, when visiting the town of Coldwater. The mural on the inside of the lobby was painted in 1947 by Don Nichols. And nearby Protection, Kansas is home to the Stan Herd art gallery. This internationally known agricultural artist is a Kansas native and the gallery includes several his works, including drawings from his days in high school.
Greensburg, Kansas is a destination itself. After being destroyed completely in 2007 by a massive tornado, the town rebuilt from scratch. And when they incorporated green tech concepts and construction that resulted in a green community that includes many LEED Certified buildings. One of these buildings is the 547 Art Center, a creativity and community space that opened about a year after the tornado.
M.T. Liggett left his mark on the town of Mullinville, Kansas. The American folk artist used metals and other farm implements to make sculptures that communicate his strong opinions.
On this episode, we uncover a unique program in Johnson County Kansas that enables and encourages commercial art-making by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Papercrete Works is a program created by Johnson County Developmental Supports (JCDS) that marries art, commerce, and recycling to create an opportunity for clients of JCDS to earn an hourly wage. I learned of the program’s existence when I visited their open studio at InterUrban ArtHouse.
The term Papercrete is used to describe a mixture of cement, water, and recycled paper that gets poured into molds to make flower pots, picture frames, paperweights, decorative bowls, and other art objects. The process requires a wide range of skill sets, and allows people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to put their skills to work for an hourly wage. Some people shred the recycled paper, some mix the concrete, others fill the molds, use fine motor skills to paint the items, and even learn sales and marketing skills when the items are sold at art shows or other events.
One of my goals for Uncovering Kansas is to help educate Kansans about interesting and innovative things going on in Kansas and to start conversations that discuss and challenge stereotypes. And I think Papercrete Works art studio does this. There are many ways to look at programs like this, but as soon as I walked into the Papercrete Works art studio, I knew this would be an enlightening interview for me. I sat down with Micah Wickstrom, Ben Koontz, Jaimie Cureton, and Deb Bartholomew to talk about the program. Michah is the Papercrete Works Program Coordinator, Deb is a JCDS Team Lead, and both Ben and Jaimie are clients of JCDS who are working for Papercrete Works.
I enjoyed learning about the success the program is having in just 2 ½ years. The program assists people like Ben and Jaime with necessary skills development to participate in the the community. To learn more about the program, check out their website. If you are in Johnson County, their open studio at InterUrban ArtHouse is on the 3rd Friday of each month.
The podcast about culture, travel, people, history, and enterprise in Kansas.