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Archive for Monday, December 5, 1994

ARTIST PROMOTES CAPITAL PLANS FOR CAPITOL PIECE

December 5, 1994

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Kansas lawmakers have been asked to approve a new fund-raising proposal to pay for putting a sculpture atop the state Capitol dome.

Would you pay $125 to have your name inscribed in brick? Or $1,000 to have it in bronze? At the state Capitol in Topeka?

Richard Bergen thinks many people would jump at the chance.

And the Salina sculptor hopes to convince the Kansas Legislature that such a lure of personal immortality would be a good way to finally help raise enough money to put his creation, "Ad Astra," atop the Capitol dome.

"Ad Astra" is a 20-foot bronze sculpture of a Kansa Indian with his bow drawn and an arrow pointing to the North Star.

The sculpture, whose name comes from the state motto, "Ad Astra per Aspera" (To the Stars Through Difficulties), was picked in 1988 after three competitions were held to select a dome sculpture.

Since then, Bergen has completed a 20-foot model, constructed of foam, plaster and clay.

And he's started the process of making the molds and patterns that will be cast in bronze and welded together to complete the sculpture.

While he's progressed on the work since 1988, fund-raising efforts for the $700,000 project are still far from the goal.

"There's one thing that a lot of people have asked: Is that thing going to get up there? The answer is yes," Bergen said.

Bergen presented his fund-raising idea last week to the Joint Committee on Arts and Cultural Resources.

He proposed that a 5 1/2-foot model of the statue be placed at ground level at the Statehouse on a pentagon-shaped patio.

Surrounding the patio would be 440 bricks, which would each be sold for $125 to contributors for the opportunity to have their names engraved on them.

The brick sales would raise $55,000 for the ground-mounted sculpture and patio, which would include plates with information on the Kansa Indians and the history of the Capitol dome.

Along with the bricks, small bronze strips that would go on the ground-mounted project would be sold for $1,000 each. Bergen thinks as many as 1,000 of those strips could be sold to raise as much as $1 million to have Ad Astra finally completed on top of the dome.

Sen. Caroline Tillotson, R-Leavenworth, who leads the arts and culture committee, said no action was taken last week on the proposal. She said the matter must first be approved by the Capitol Area Plaza Authority, which has jurisdiction about what is placed on the Statehouse grounds.

Sen. Ben Vidrickson, R-Salina, will work with Bergen to get the idea approved by the Legislature, she said.

"I don't think it's a bad idea," Tillotson said. "I think it's hard to raise as much money as necessary. ...They've been somewhat discouraged."

Bergen said a similar fund-raising method was so successful for a Salina sculpture project that far more than enough money was raised.

"When you throw something open like this, people are going to snap up those bricks," Bergen said. "It's a very successful fund-raising technique. I would think that within a year, we should have the thing funded. ...That's the secret -- your name in bronze."

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