Topeka Now that the Kansas Statehouse project is finished, it's time to complete work on the original vision of the building, a local sculptor says.
Courtesy of the 13-year, $330 million project, the historic building is shining like a new penny, from its copper dome to its renovated interior and its gleaming visitor's center.
But what's missing, according to Matt Kirby, a sculptor from Baldwin City, are carvings that were supposed to be put in the pediments, the triangular upper part of the building above the columns on the north and south wings.
Currently those pediments are simply blank.
According to a Kansas Historical Society book, entitled "Kansas State Capitol," the original plans for the north and south pediments called for a relief design.
A design proposed by a former Statehouse Architect George Ropes was never put in place. A blueprint of that proposed design, dating from 1889, is on the Kansas Historical Society website.
Why the design wasn't ever carried through is uncertain.
Current Statehouse Architect Barry Greis said putting in artwork in the pediments was always on a list of proposed projects as part of the modern-day restoration, renovation and construction project.
"It has always been intended as an enhancement from private funding," Greis said. But legislators have not moved forward on it. The total cost would probably range around $500,000 total for the north and south wings.
State Sen. Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, who as Senate minority leader has been involved with the renovation project, said there may be some fatigue among legislators now that the long-running project is finished, but that he was open to the idea carvings in the pediments if funded privately.
"A concept that has been around awhile but has never been done before, it would seem to me would be more appropriate to be done privately," Hensley said.
Kirby said it's time for Kansas to finish the job and that a contest could be established for a new design that would represent the history and vision of the state.
Although a sculptor, Kirby said he works mostly in metal so he is not proposing work for himself.
Instead, he said, "There are many skilled stone carvers in Kansas. It would take a team of artisans. It could be a lot of fun."