Salina Eight years late and 14 years after the project began, the Kansas Statehouse finally may have its crowning glory this fall.
A sculpture of a Kansas American Indian drawing a bow aimed at the sky is set to be installed Sept. 15 atop the Capitol dome.
Salina sculptor Richard Bergen won a design contest for the "Kansas Capitol Dome Sculpture Project." The contest timeline called for entries in 1988 with a public dedication scheduled for July 4, 1994, but a seemingly endless stream of changes, questions and criticisms delayed the winning sculpture for nearly a decade.
With the installation of the statue now set for Sept. 15, the project has received more criticism.
Gene Hinde of Salina recently ran an advertisement in The Salina Journal that questioned the appropriateness of putting an American Indian on the Capitol dome.
Hinde, who worked for 29 years as an architectural designer, said Americans Indians were one of the obstacles to settling Kansas, and that's why "Ad Astra" doesn't fit on the dome.
During the legislative session, Rep. Clay Aurand, R-Courtland, questioned whether Bergen's statue would fit in with the Capitol's $120 million restoration project.
Bergen has a simple reply.
"All these questions have already been asked and answered," he said.
"If someone wants to put something else up there, let them sacrifice 14 years of their life, because that's what I've done for this," Bergen said.
Bergen tried to create a figure that would mesh with the neoclassical style of the Capitol, but at the same time he wanted Kansas to have a unique sculpture.
"Look at other capitols they're all these draped figures. I designed this sculpture so you could tell what it was at a distance and still have it mean something," Bergen said.
The image of an American Indian will set Kansas apart in more than just aesthetics, said former state Sen. Ben Vidricksen of Salina, finance chairman for the "Ad Astra" project.
"Rest assured, this will be the first Native American on top of a capitol in the United States," Vidricksen said. "I think that says something about our state and our people."