A quirky storm blew through Lucas on Monday night, wreaking havoc on the town's Grassroots Art Center.
"It looks like the whole south building is sucked outward between the first and second floor," said Rosslyn Schultz, executive director of the center, which is housed in three 1890s limestone buildings along the town's Main Street.
"There is a 12-inch gap between the floor and where the front of the building should be. It looks like we are the Leaning Tower of Lucas."
A thunderstorm carrying straight-line winds of 60 to 65 mph rumbled through about 11 p.m. Monday, said Andy Kleinsasser, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wichita.
But the winds that roared through Lucas may have been stronger than that, he said.
"Localized areas of 70 to 80 mph winds may be what happened," he said.
The winds may have been so strong they wrapped around the building, creating a suction for its front wall to bow out, Schultz said.
The center specializes in promoting grassroots art, also known as "folk art," "trash art" or even "raw art." The artwork is collected and made by people who have no formal artistic training.
The artists are typically people who use ordinary materials in extraordinary ways.
And that's one reason Lucas has through the years become a mecca for grassroots art. It is the grassroots art capital of Kansas.
Consider the artwork of S.P. Dinsmoor, creator of the "Garden of Eden" in Lucas. In 1907, Dinsmoor — a Civil War veteran — began creating nearly two decades worth of concrete sculptures on his property.
Inez Marshall, now deceased, was born in nearby Burr Oak in 1907 and started carving Kansas limestone in the late 1930s while recuperating from a broken back. She continued carving while working as an auto mechanic, truck driver and traveling evangelist.
More than 500 sculptures by Marshall exist. Nationally known, her sculptures include representations of animals, politicians and scenes from small-town life. The center houses many of her best-known works such as a car, "The Last Supper" and a team of horses pulling a covered wagon.
None of that artwork was damaged in the storm, Schultz said.
She estimates it may cost tens of thousands of dollars to repair the south building that was damaged. The buildings and exhibits are insured.
The Grassroots Art Center is still open to the public, although visitors aren't allowed inside.