Lucas, Kansas is a small town with a large art presence. What it lacks in populace (393 to be exact), it makes up for in it’s eclectic and quirky art community. While you might not expect to find a lot in such a small town you’d be wrong.
Lucas is the Grassroots Art Capital of Kansas with much to see and do. Just two hours from Wichita is a hidden gem of a small town and an art lovers dream.
Lucas is tiny and you can walk the whole town which makes seeing all of the main attractions easy to access, including a restroom that has won second place for the best bathroom in America.
Its uniqueness is hard to miss. It’s definitely different from most American small towns you would visit. In the settlement time of Lucas, there were no trees and all buildings were built with ‘post-rock’ which has given the town a unique look and feel.
Grassroots Art Phenomenon in Lucas
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Most of the art in Lucas is created by locals who are self-taught and many have started making art later in life. Many of the artists in Lucas create their art from limestone, which is the same that is used to create the ‘post-rock’.
Grassroots art is a term describing art made by people with no formal artistic training.
The majority of the art you’ll find in Lucas is made using ordinary materials in an extraordinary way. Grassroots art falls outside the sphere of fine art and isn’t considered folk art. The art tends to be one of a kind and unique phenomenon in Lucas!
Grassroots Art Capital of Kansas
Despite its size, you can spend hours upon hours exploring all of these quirky collections and art creations that are featured throughout the town. The town itself feels like a living art gallery. Many residents have art installations. Here is one of my favorites; a garden tea party!
Where else will you find fried eggs painted on the sidewalk? And if that isn’t quirky enough, you’ll also hear a supercharged noon whistle sound each day. From what I gathered, the town whistle stems from it’s factory days.
Veer off the beaten path and choose to do something different and exciting for your next vacation and see what Lucas, Kansas truly has to offer. We’ve outlined some of our favorite places and tips below.
What to Do in Lucas, Kansas
Garden of Eden
The biggest attraction in Lucas and the place that puts this Kansas town on the map is The Garden of Eden. It’s a world-renowned grassroots art site with a bizarre and interesting sculpture garden. This is a historic site, where a retired schoolteacher, a civil war veteran, populist politician, and farmer by the name Samuel Perry Dinsmoor began building his home in 1905 at the age of 62. Dinsmoor was a self-taught artist and sculptor who continued to build and add to the home until he died in 1932.
S.P. Dinsmoor is the father of the Lucas Grassroots art movement.
He built statues around the house and yard and continued to build it up for the next 22 years until 1932 when he passed away. People from far and wide would stop into town to see his garden and hear him speak on populist agendas. He was also known for his handmade game tables and desks.
In 1988 the house was restored, and it has become a huge tourist attraction where you can view Dinsmoor’s mausoleum, the home and artwork of one of Kansas’ most eccentric artists. While pictures aren’t allowed, you can see Dinsmoor in the mausoleum, where he rests in a clear casket.
The Garden of Eden was a finalist for one of the 8 wonders of Kansas for a reason, come see for yourself!
After your trip to the Garden of Eden, head next door Miller’s Park. Roy & Clara Miller created this sculpture park through the accumulation of rocks they collected during their travels. The park began as a rest stop on Kansas Highway 18 in 1921 and in 1932 they began creating the sculptures. Today, it features miniature buildings and a tiny town built from rocks and shells. This is an adorable historic miniature village they created and one worth visiting.
While upon first hearing of it might sound a little strange, one of Lucas’ main attractions is Bowl Plaza, voted the second best restroom in the United States. The Bowl Plaza is an artistic giant toilet featuring beautiful mosaics and artwork that hosts 15,000+ visitors a year. The inside of the building is decorated completely in mosaic with a creative adornment of toys, mirrors, plates and other items.
The building is shaped like a toilet tank, the entrance is a raised toilet lid, the benches in front represent a curved toilet seat, and the sidewalk resembles the toilet paper roll. The mosaics are created by artists, and the public toilets feature artwork in the men and women’s bathrooms, along with amazing art dispersed on the outside of the building.
Lucas is known for being an artist’s enclave, with every inch of the city featuring interesting artwork and beautiful sights, including the Bowl Plaza. Come see for yourself why it was voted the second-best washroom in the United States, with its beautiful adornments and artistry.
Fork Art Park:
After checking out the Bowl Plaza, head over to the Fork Art Park which is right beside the plaza. An interesting hidden gem is this park which continues to represent Lucas’ fun and quirky art scene. This Fork Art Park features creative sculptures of forks, in different designs and sizes. So, come check it out, and pick out your favorite fork design.
One way to really get the feel of a city is to check out its local market. Brant’s Market, which dates back to 1922 is a popular spot and people drive from all over for its famous bologna as well as their cheese and sausages.
Continuing on with the theme of being the Grassroots Arts Capital of Kansas, this market features a beautiful mural inside. The market was started by a Czech refugee, and the mural inside is designed to resemble the Czech village from where they immigrated. There’s also another mesmerizing mural in the small park next to the market made of limestone and the scenic byway.
An interesting fact about the market is that it’s known for its bologna, selling up to 250 rings of Bologna during the busy season, November to December. Whether it’s a mural, bologna, or another interesting find, stop by Brant’s Market and see what you can discover.
Possumbilities is an antique coffee shop located on the main street. Fitting in with the art theme of this small town in Kansas, the coffee shop is a colorful and quirky place that is definitely worth a visit on your trip to Lucas.
Grassroots Art Center:
The Kansas grassroots art scene is celebrated in the Grassroots Art Center. This building celebrates untrained artists who have mostly got their creative art projects started later in life. Occupying three late 19th century buildings in downtown Lucas, these buildings feature permanent exhibits along with temporary and community art projects. There are over 100 documented Kansas grassroots artists, and they represent a refreshing look at creative artwork.
The museum showcases mostly post-rock art and recycled art projects. It celebrates the early pioneers of grassroots art in Lucas as well as modern grassroots artists from throughout Kansas.
Along with S.P. Dinsmoor and the Millers, Ed Root is another very important figure in the early days of the grassroots art movement of Lucas. During his 20 years of retirement, Root created 100’s of concrete art pieces that he embellished with glass, rock, toys, ceramics, jewelry, and other raw materials.
MT Liggett started by welding odd shaped pieces of metal into totem poles and placed them near his fence. He began gaining a cult following and quite a few people stopping to learn about each of the totem poles. His art has evolved and focuses on history, politics, and mythology.
Herman Diver is an artist from Topeka, Kansas and creates art from pull-tabs (from beer and soda cans). One of his masterpieces is this lifesize car made entirely from pull tabs.
Deeble House ( Garden of Isis ) & Deeble Garden:
You won’t find an inch of the Deeble House & Garden that isn’t covered in art and sculptures. This house is an art project made of recycled art projects that begin in the front lawn and extends into the house. Mri-Pilar. a visual artist from Lawrence, Kansas is the talent behind this museum. Much of Pilar’s art is created from doll bodies, toys, lots of foil-type materials, ornaments, kitchen utensils or other throw-aways that she feels she can make into art.
The Deeble’s Rock Garden, located in the backyard, has been a Lucas, Kansas landmark for over 50 years. The art and statues in the backyard represent Mrs. Deeble’s travels and are recreations in limestone of scenes from postcards of places she visited when she was younger.
World’s largest collection the smallest versions of the world’s largest things:
The museum for the World’s Largest Collection of the World’s Smallest Versions of the World’s Largest Things is located on the main street of downtown. The owner, Erika Nelson started taking road trips and learning about the stories behind roadside attractions of the ‘world’s largest things.’ She has traveled for fifteen years showcasing her collection of miniature versions of things in her car “trunk show”. As well as her museum on wheel’s she also has a permanent exhibit space.
As Erika says, “The bar is set very high for crazy in Lucas.” Which we’ve noticed is definitely true, making Lucas one of the most interesting small towns to explore, not just in Kansas, but anywhere.
Where to Eat in Lucas
With the small population size, it comes as no surprise that Lucas proudly boasts only two dining options in the city.
Experience delicious hometown food, in this quaint diner. The menu hosts all the classics you’d expect to find in a diner, like cheeseburgers, biscuits and gravy with fried chicken, and a delicious slice of pie. You’ll get a feel for where the people of Lucas gather for some good grub at the K-18 Cafe.
Come for the diner food, stay for the coconut cream pie. The Backstreet Bakery is another traditional homestyle diner situated in the heart of Lucas is a great option for a comfortable environment with delicious desserts.
Wilson State Park & the Post Rock Scenic Byway
Take a drive out to Wilson State Park and the surrounding Wilson Lake and enjoy all of the outdoor activities it has to offer like fishing, hiking, and water-skiing.
Visit the World’s Largest Czech Egg
Drive the beautiful Post Rock Scenic Byway and make a trip into Wilson, Kansas to see the World’s Largest Czech Egg.
Where to Stay
Keeping up with the theme of quirkiness in the town of Lucas, one of the only places to stay is a nursing home that has been turned into a cozy hotel called The Horseshoe Lodge.
For movie buffs, visit the Historic Midland Hotel which was featured in the movie Paper Moon. The hotel is located in the nearby town of Wilson, Kansas.
Alexa Meisler is the editorial director of 52 Perfect Days. Born in Paris, France she has since lived in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon. She currently resides in San Diego with her husband and son where they enjoy exploring California and Mexico.
Travel has always been a part of her life; traveling to such places as Morocco, Tangiers and Spain as a young child as well as taking many road trips to Mexico with her grandparents as a young girl. Since then, she has traveled abroad to locations such as Russia, Taiwan and throughout Europe.
Prior to working at 52 Perfect Days she was a freelance travel writer; focusing on family and women’s adventure experiences.