It’s been years since Marcia Blumberg has been at the site of the Mid-America All-Indian Center.
So many years, in fact, that the center wasn’t even built when she took her young children to hear Kiowa artist Blackbear Bosin talk about American Indian history while sitting under a tree.
Now a resident of Avita Assisted Living, Blumberg and others came to the center on Saturday to see the unveiling of Keepers on Parade – an exhibit of 10-foot fiberglass replicas of Bosin’s Keeper of the Plains – which stood within sight of the famous statue.
Blumberg couldn’t pick a favorite.
“They’re magnificent, and each one is different,” Blumberg said. “Each one is so beautiful in its own way.”
The public art project, which featured nine Keepers, were painted by local artists as part of Together Wichita, a communitywide initiative made up of businesses and organizations to showcase what makes Wichita special.
Each Keeper was painted in a different motif, with some decorated in native dress and others with Kansas-themed paintings. One was completely covered in bottle caps. Another was painted black, with constellations in glowing white paint.
There are plans to have 50 to 75 of the Keepers by the summer, and they will be distributed all across town, said Kim Nussbaum, publisher of The Eagle and a Together Wichita board member.
With another batch of Keepers coming at the end of February, Together Wichita will create a map on its website and distribute brochures for those interested in tracking down the sculptures.
The group is still accepting artist submissions on its website, Nussbaum said.
Last summer, artists submitted their first proposals for the blank replicas. Those selected received a $1,000 honorarium on completion and approval of their painted Keeper.
The ones on display Saturday will go to Envision, Exploration Place, Berry Companies, Wichita State University, JR Custom Metal, Intrust Bank and Meritrust Credit Union. Each statue will have a plaque with the artist’s name and the name of the artwork.
The Keeper of the Plains stands at the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas rivers. Last year was the 40th anniversary of Bosin dedicating his artwork to the city of Wichita.
Special permission from the Bosin family was given for the “Keepers” project.
The Keeper of the Plains became the logo of Wichita’s Convention and Tourism Bureau in 1980 and of Sedgwick County in 1982. Smaller replicas of the Keeper now stand in Wichita’s sister cities in France and Mexico.
Purchasing a Keeper
Each sculpture costs $5,000, which covers the cost of casting the sculpture, the artist honorarium and the clear coating to protect it from outdoor weather. Those interested in purchasing sculptures can choose their own artist or already submitted designs.
For more information, contact Ben Jennings at 316-268-6383 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.