LUCAS – The residents of this small, artsy Russell County community want you to flush your money down the toilet, specifically, their toilet.
Lucas has been working on a public restroom project for four years and it is almost complete. The first flush will take place at 3:21 p.m. Saturday, part of a day of inaugural toilet activities.
Locals have been auctioning off rights to one of the first flushes (one of the stools dubbed the Super Bowl) via the Internet as a fundraising effort since April. Additional inaugural flushes will be sold Saturday: The women’s Porcelain Throne and the men’s Oval Office by live auction at 2:45 p.m. and the urinal (the Porcelain Bus) by a silent auction that ends at 3 p.m.
Among the events Saturday are toilet paper art and sculpture contest and exhibit, Tubular Olympics featuring empty tissue roll tubes and a toilet seat toss. There will also be a concert, other art displays and “pomp and pageantry” leading up to the ceremonial flushing.
The restroom was made to be a piece of grassroots art to go with the grassroots art already dotting the community. “It is probably the most unique restroom in the world,” said Connie Doughety with the Lucas Area Chamber of Commerce.
“This community building arts project began in 2008,” said Rosslyn Schultz, director of the Grassroots Arts Center in Lucas. “It has had a life of it’s own.”
Artists and all ages of ordinary citizens have spent thousands of hours creating one-of-a-kind mosaic panels that now have been installed within the context of the larger mural walls, she said. There are male-related themes on the men’s side and female-related themes on the women’s side.
“Floor to ceiling in each of the interior stalls are covered with recycled materials,” Schultz said. Some of those include automotive items, license plates, welding helmet and chess set on the men’s side, and fine china, perfume bottles and curlers on the women’s side.
“It will definitely be worth driving off of the interstate to see,” Schultz said, describing the Bowl Plaza project. It features the mosaic-laden walls in and on a toilet tank-shaped building with a toilet-seat-shaped seating area extending out in the front. In the center of the outdoor seats is a relief sculpture with items that are accidentally flushed down a toilet – cell phones, small animals, watches, pocket knives and Super Bowl tickets.
In addition, “the five-foot-five-foot concrete roll of white toilet paper unfurling into the white sidewalk is so much fun and very unexpected,’ Schultz said.
“It’s eccentric,” Schultz said of the effort. “But, people (in Lucas) are starting to think that’s normal.”
The “facility” cost about $43,000. Funds are still being collected.
Why a bathroom? More importantly, why a bathroom/art installation?
“We have a lot of tourists,” Schultz said. Now, these weary travelers must find bladder relief wherever they can. “We needed public restrooms.”
So, with Lucas being the state epicenter for quirky, folk art, the idea flourished and evolved into something much bigger than a couple port-a-potties. “We have this (art) all over town,” she said.
They applied for and got an Arts in Communities Grant through the Kansas Arts Commission. They applied for other grants as well.
A host of local artists and artisans, along with an army of volunteers of all ages, are making sure the idea didn’t swirl away down the drain. “They’re pretty amazing,” Schultz said.
The Kohler Company Foundation donated the plumbing fixtures. There have also been other monetary, material and in-kind contributions. The City of Lucas has even kicked in some money.
These and the other bits and pieces of the project were scattered in garages, workshops and art studios all over this town of about 430 people.
“Visitors come to Lucas the experience outsider, self-taught, visionary, recycled art genre,” Schutlz said. “And this additional art attraction, the Bowl Plaza public restroom, lives up to that expectation.”
For more information, call Schultz at 785-525-6118 or visit www.grassrootsart.net.