Lawrence artist Randall Bennett accepted a tall task last May when he was hired to create a mural for the soon-to-open Flint Hills Discovery Center in Manhattan.
Bennett, who operates Tall Grass Museum Services out of his Lawrence studio, is putting the finishing touches on a 28-foot-tall, 80-foot-long mural of the Flint Hills that stretches from the third-floor ceiling to the ground.
Bennett, who painted the mural in six sections at his studio, said he’s aiming for a “Flint Hills, pristine look."
“The intention, as an artist, was to make a really pretty Flint Hills landscape,” Bennett said.
The landscape is nearly complete, featuring tall prairie grasses and a river. Next up, adding a few animal sculptures, such as carp and a bison.
The Flint Hills Discovery Center, a 10,000-square-foot, $25 million interactive facility emphasizing the culture of Kansas’ tallgrass prairie, is slated to open April 14. The center will feature multimedia exhibits aimed at educating the public about the Flint Hills.
Bennett, a Williamsburg native, has lived in various parts of the United States during the past 30 years, working on murals, sculptures and dioramas for a variety of nature-themed facilities, such as the Dry Tortugas National Park’s Sea Turtle Exhibit in Homestead, Fla. In this area, he’s worked on the Clinton Lake Visitor Center.
Bennett is a Kansas State University graduate, and he said it was hard to pass up an opportunity to “give something back to the community.”
Just as important, he’s hoping to encourage an appreciation of the Flint Hills.
“I hope they want to go out and look at the Flint Hills,” Bennett said. “It’s an important piece of ecology.”
Instead of just cruising through the state on the highway, Bennett said he wants people to “get out there and look at the details.”