THE FLINT HILLS — Wichita artist Steve Murillo’s latest environmental sculpture is on one of the highest hills in the middle of nowhere.
On private property, the artwork rises on the horizon looking like a minimalist version of Stonehenge.
It is a tribute to wildlife, indigenous people, the past, the four stages of life and the four directions.
And it is the latest in Flint Hills tourism destination spots.
On Saturday, the public is invited to the Walk in Peace Ranch, which inspired the artwork. The ranch’s co-founders, Lonetta Lollar and John Brack, commissioned Murillo for the sculpture.
And yes, it is in the middle of nowhere – which is the point, Brack said.
“We thought this would be a neat place to come and hang out,” he said. “It’s quiet. You walk out the back door and don’t see anyone. In the city, there is a crying lack for solitude. You can sit out here at night and things are so quiet, you can hear owls and coyotes. See deer and turkeys. We had a beaver walk across our back yard. You can hear the animals out in the grass.”
Walk in Peace Ranch
The 200-acre ranch is a few miles off the Kansas Turnpike in the heart of Chase County, the subject of William Least Heat-Moon’s "PrairyErth.” It is not far from the site where, on March 31, 1931, a TWA Fokker F-10A carrying Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne, along with two crew members and five other passengers, crashed into a hill near Bazaar. It is eight miles from Pioneer Bluffs, a historic ranch house and acreage where visitors can learn about a sustainable agrarian lifestyle.
The Walk in Peace Ranch will offer retreats and workshops, themed weekends and chances for family or personal getaways, say owners Lollar and Brack. The place has already hosted a Native American drum building retreat and a fall equinox celebration. It has walking trails that wind across the prairie.
“We want to be a tourist destination,” Lollar said. “The vision I had was of having a place for people to gather and have workshops.”
Located next to Murillo’s “Spirit Stones” sculpture is a rock garden/labyrinth called “Starhenge.” The garden features eight geographical direction stones, 12 zodiac sign stones, moon stones and a peace pole.
Spirit Stones Sculpture
On Wednesday morning, the sun was barely up on the horizon as Steve Murillo and Terry Corbett, a ceramic artist from Wichita, put the finishing touches on four limestone pillars.
The two have been working on the standing stones for the past several months.
The pillars, weighing an average 10,000 pounds each and 13 to 15 feet tall, were quarried near Winfield and face the four directions. Murillo, who created the Solar Calendar in Riverside, said he examined hundreds of giant limestone pieces before settling on the four. By each rock’s shape, he envisioned what animals and symbols to use in his collaboration with Corbett.
The east rock represents the season of spring and features a bald eagle, deer and antelope. The south rock is summer and highlights a scissor-tail flycatcher, red-winged blackbirds, a fox and a sacred hoop. The west rock is autumn and shows a red-tailed hawk and black bear. The north rock is winter with a snowy owl and white buffalo. On the back of the north rock, thick patches of clinging, gnarled grass mimic the hide of a buffalo.
The stones, Lollar said, represent the four major Native American tribes that once traversed the region – the Kanza or Kaw, Cherokee, Kiowa and Sioux.
“The fact these stones honor the seasons is important to me,” Lollar said. “We wanted something that could honor all creation.”