HAYS — Figures from the past like George Custer and Walter P. Chrysler depict Ellis County, while sites such as Castle Rock and Cottonwood Ranch highlight western Kansas.
When it's all said and done, 300 or more famous figures, important industries and inventions, historic trails and railroads, and anything else essential to the history of the state of Kansas will be included.
Dennis Schiel has the final say in what goes on his 10-piece mural portraying the state's history. He's putting in hundreds of hours of research and even more time painting the findings.
"The hardest part is raising the money," Schiel said. "The painting is the fun part, and the history isn't too bad."
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Schiel began research on the project at the beginning of the year after many of his commissions fell through due to the economy. The painting began in April, and he hopes to have all 10 sections completed by January 2011, just in time for the state's 150th anniversary.
"I talked to the state historical society, and they can't accept it as an entity because they only accept actual items from the past," Schiel said. "So they're going to find the entity that can accept it, and then we're going to get it placed in the capitol in the visitor's center."
Schiel has three of the sections completed — those in the Hays, Dodge City and Garden City areas. Next up is the far northwest corner of the state.
"This one's going to be a lot of older stuff, a lot of Indian representation," he said.
Each panel has depictions from a specific area's history and includes one animal and Indian tribe important to the area. Schiel also tries to include creeks and as many towns as possible, but that will be a harder task the farther he moves east on the mural.
"There's just so many towns, you can't feature them all," he said.
One thing he has noticed about his work, which is acrylic on canvas, is the difference between pre- and post-1900 history in the state.
"The stuff that happened before 1900 is coming out in the browns," Schiel said. "When I started on (the southwestern) panel, color entered more into it. Most of this area didn't happen until after 1900."
To finalize what goes on each panel, Schiel meets with people from each area to discuss what history was important. Then, he consults the history books.
"If people would appear or something would appear in different history books, then it would justify whether it was going on there or not," he said.
But he's run into challenges along the way.
"How do you paint a hole in the ground for the largest hand-dug well in Greensburg?" he said.
Schiel said that after putting St. Fidelis Catholic Church and the Ness County Courthouse on the mural, he realized he could do separate murals just on churches and historic buildings because there are so many.
Along with the mural, Schiel is planning to have a computer program written for the state's Web site.
"When you click on the picture, you can find out the history of it," Schiel said.
He's also been asked to do a book with the same type of information.
"When I did my research for this, there's never been a mural created with this much information on it — nowhere, not just in Kansas," Schiel said.
The state history mural is Schiel's primary project right now. He expects to spend 2,300 hours painting the mural, plus his research time and time spent on the road raising money for the $230,000 project.
"It's kind of like being in a candy store because you find something new all the time," he said.