Artwork of Baldwin City historic sites available as posters, postcards; depictions of wagon ruts finished in time for Santa Fe Trail bicentennial celebration

photo by: Jennifer Burkhead

This poster of Baldwin City's Black Jack Wagon Ruts was created by Douglas County artist Jennifer Burkhead, and will be part of a series of four WPA-style posters of historical sights in Baldwin City.

Baldwin City is featuring its historic landmarks in a series of posters created by local artists.

Jennifer Burkhead and Doug Barth are collaborating to create WPA-style artwork of four sites in Baldwin City: the Black Jack Wagon Ruts, the Women’s Bridge, Baker University and the Maple Leaf Festival. WPA stands for the Works Progress Administration, which commissioned artists in the 1930s and ’40s to design posters to publicize different events, programs and sites. The style of the artwork on the posters includes sharp lines and flat plains of color with no shading, Burkhead said.

The project is similar to Lawrence’s project with its parks and green spaces.

Jeannette Blackmar, the director of the Lumberyard Arts Center, came up with the idea for the Baldwin City project. It was kick-started after another local leader, Roger Boyd, approached Blackmar about commissioning local artists to create work for the Santa Fe Trail’s bicentennial celebration. Boyd is the president of the Santa Fe Historical Society of Douglas County.

“It kind of all flew together,” Blackmar said.

Boyd is helping to organize a celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Santa Fe Trail on Saturday, June 5. The event, called “Trails & Trailblazers,” will include events in downtown Baldwin City, at Black Jack Battlefield and at the Black Jack Wagon Ruts: a series of pronounced ruts in the Ivan Boyd Prairie Reserve that were formed from the passage of thousands of people along the Santa Fe Trail.

In the spring of 2020, 65 volunteers helped create a new quarter-mile walking trail that takes visitors around the ruts. The trail will be dedicated during the June 5 event at 2 p.m. with speakers from the National Park Service, Santa Fe Trail Association and more.

photo by: Dave Kendall

A drone image of the Black Jack Wagon Rut trail that encircles the three main wagon ruts. The trail was completed in the spring of 2020.

Burkhead and Barth, as well as another local artist, Kathy Bourgeois, were commissioned to make pieces for the event. Burkhead and Barth created the first of their four WPA-style posters, and Bourgeois painted a landscape image in a different style.

“My job was to take it and make it literal so that people could see with their own eyes what they could only imagine otherwise,” Bourgeois said.

photo by: Kathy Bourgeois

This depiction of the Black Jack Wagon Ruts was created by Douglas County artist Kathy Bourgeois.

The artists spent time researching the history of the trail to ensure accuracy in their portrayals. Bourgeois said she spent about a month researching the topography, the types of wagons that were used, the number of animals used to pull the wagons, how the reins were placed on the animals and more.

Both Bourgeois’ piece and Burkhead’s and Barth’s pieces are printed on information panels that have been added near the start of the trail.

Burkhead and Barth have also created a WPA-style illustration of the Women’s Bridge in Baldwin City.

photo by: Jennifer Burkhead

This poster of the Women’s Bridge in Baldwin City was created by Douglas County artist Jennifer Burkhead, and will be part of a series of four WPA-style posters of historical sights in Baldwin City.

The Women’s Bridge was created by Baldwin City’s first female mayor, Lucy Sullivan, and the all-female City Council that existed at that time. The women created sidewalks and the bridge after becoming fed up with having to cross Tauy Creek, muddying their long dresses and petticoats. The Lumberyard Arts Center currently has an exhibit about Sullivan, which will be available for viewing during the June 5 “Trails & Trailblazers” event. Other activities at the event will include horse and buggy rides in downtown Baldwin City, a guided battlefield walk and a covered wagon replica in the ruts. For more information about the “Trails and Trailblazers” event, go to

Burkhead and Barth will collaborate on two more WPA-style posters to complete the series. The Maple Leaf Festival poster will be finished by October and thus available for purchase prior to the event, which takes place the third weekend in October. Burkhead said they would start working on the Baker University painting after.

Posters and postcards of the two depictions of the Black Jack Wagon Ruts, as well as of the Women’s Bridge, are currently on sale at the Lumberyard Arts Center. Poster are $10, and postcards are $5. Proceeds for the Black Jack Wagon Ruts artwork will go to the Lumberyard Arts Center and the Santa Fe Trail Historical Society of Douglas County. Proceeds from the Women’s Bridge artwork will go to the Lumberyard Arts Center, as will future sales of the Maple Leaf and Baker University posters and postcards.


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