Archive for Saturday, July 16, 2011

Area company with Lawrence, KU ties sells Garden of Eden in Lucas to help save it

July 16, 2011


The "Goddess of Liberty" is among dozens of sculptures at the Garden of Eden, in Lucas.

The "Goddess of Liberty" is among dozens of sculptures at the Garden of Eden, in Lucas.

The Garden of Eden, in Lucas, is being restored under new ownership: the Kohler Foundation.

The Garden of Eden, in Lucas, is being restored under new ownership: the Kohler Foundation.

S.P. Dinsmoor, creator of the Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kan.

S.P. Dinsmoor, creator of the Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kan.

An area company is getting out of the Garden of Eden business, its leaders confident that the project born more than a century ago will grow in popularity and stature.

Garden of Eden Inc., owned by more than a dozen Lawrence residents and others with Lawrence and Kansas University ties, has sold its historic site, statues and structures in Lucas to the Kohler Foundation, which is rehabilitating and restoring S.P. Dinsmoor’s collection of grass-roots art fashioned from concrete, wire and native stone.

“They have never had any conservation work,” said Jon Blumb, a Lawrence photographer, company stockholder and former president. “We’ve always been very lucky that there’s been no storm damage or something of that sort. We have owned the site since 1989, and it’s always been our intention to mount a proper conservation project, and it’s a big undertaking.

“We’re very pleased that the Kohler Foundation can be involved.”

Once the work is complete, the Garden of Eden, which typically draws about 10,000 visitors a year, will be turned over to a new not-for-profit organization created to oversee the site and maintain it as a tourist attraction: Friends of S.P. Dinsmoor’s Garden of Eden, based in Lucas.

Leading that organization will be John Hachmeister, an associate professor of sculpture at KU and founder of Garden of Eden Inc.; Erika Nelson, an artist who lives next door to the garden and who studied art at KU; Doug Hickman, a retired Lucas banker; and Saralyn Reece Hardy, director of the Spencer Museum of Art at KU.

The dozens of statues Dinsmoor created — including Cain’s dog, Adam and Eve, a tempting apple — from 1907 to 1928 now are being given new life in the 21st century by a foundation committed to preserving grass-roots art.

Crews already are cleaning dirt, stains and lichens from concrete surfaces, Hachmeister said. Some concrete will be stripped away, too, so that the home’s sagging porch can be reinforced, allowing the original concrete to be put back in place.

Hachmeister, whose ownership group gladly wrote off losses on their taxes over the years to keep the site intact, figures the foundation could invest as much as $1 million in the project.

“They’ve made it very clear that they will do whatever it takes,” he said. “This is fantastic. It couldn’t get any better than this. It really couldn’t.”


Frederic Gutknecht IV 6 years, 10 months ago

The Garden of Eden should be the capitol of our world's it is just that creepy...and just that importantly rude, ridiculous and indignant. It is a monument to ability within the black hole of our abyss and insanity. It is the creation of deconstruction within the life of creation.

Joel Hood 6 years, 10 months ago

@JJ - lighten up...

Dinsmoor's concrete and limestone art creations are a wonderful snapshop of the political and religious dogma of the time. It also reminds us of how important community oration was before the days of the telephone or electronic media.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 10 months ago

Doubt it. I've seen his body a couple times. The last time was in the 1980s, and at that time he was in mighty sorry shape. From what I was told, I think he really started to go downhill in about 1970.

Not only that, but his suit was terribly old fashioned as well.

cjeter 6 years, 10 months ago

That place always creeped me out as a kid but I loved going there.

Cait McKnelly 6 years, 10 months ago

I'm not finding much of anything about the Kohler Foundation online; it's roots, source of money, goals, mission statement or anything. The gist of what I'm getting is the foundation is out of Wisconsin and primarily grants only in WI. It's odd that they stepped into KS. Given the current governmental situation in both states I'm a bit leery. I have friends in Sheboygan and Madison. The friend in Madison blogged many "on the ground" reports with photos from the "uprising" this past spring. I think if anybody can ferret out info on this group, he can.

dontcallmedan 6 years, 10 months ago

Chances are, you've perched on the source of the Kohler's money--plumbing fixtures. They have a long track record of saving sites, from Louisiana to Wisconsin. Check out the Jan Michael Kohler Art Center, located in Sheboygan. It is one of the premier grassroots museums in the country.

Cait McKnelly 6 years, 10 months ago

Yeah, I talked to my friend in Madison. He was completely understanding of my concern but said that the Kohler family actually has a good reputation and that the Kohler Corporation, itself, has a good reputation as an employer. That's rare these days. Thing is the Kohler's have been around for a long time, since the 1880's, and they have always had a reputation for civic concern. They're "old money". And unlike the "new money" of the Koch's, most "old money" families actually have an attitude that having money is a responsibility, not a right.

hedshrinker 6 years, 10 months ago

Oh, this is SO exciting that some of that Kohler plumbing $ is going to save this famous KS folkart site....restoration may mean stockholders may actually have a positive cash flow....but most importantly, the site will live to inspire (or creep out) others...yes, historical context is central to understanding what the mindset of the artist was; Cool!

Commenting has been disabled for this item.