Salina The Kansas state motto, "Ad Astra Per Aspera," means: "To the stars through difficulties."
Sculptor Richard Bergen has been through the difficulties. But soon, he said, the Kansa Indian in his "Ad Astra" sculpture will take aim at the sky over the Capitol.
Bergen needs to raise $1 million to pay for installing the sculpture atop the Capitol dome. He has raised $700,000, he said, and is traveling the state trying to raise interest in the project.
He will spend 10 days at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson in a booth with a 9-foot replica of "Ad Astra," signing autographed posters of the sculpture. He will also answer questions and take donations.
"This is a state project that's not being paid for with tax money," Bergen said. "The money comes from interested citizens."
It has been 12 years since Bergen won a contest to place his statue, depicting a Kansa warrior with drawn bow and arrow pointing toward the North Star, atop the dome.
The goal was to have it in place by 1991. Then it was pushed back to July 4, 2000 but that date passed, too.
When finished, the bronze sculpture will be 20 feet tall from the tip of its moccasined toes to the top of its arrow.
Bergen said the wax sculpture has been completed and is waiting to be cast in bronze. He said it would take about three months to finish, once he gets the money.
"When the law was first written for this sculpture, it was written so that there would be a capital campaign to raise the funds," Bergen said. "That meant money would come from private sources. The legislators didn't have the money in hand.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd have to raise that money."
But, Bergen said, he has never thought of quitting.
"When I start something, I usually finish by hook or by crook. I got started, and I am not going to walk away," he said.