County courthouse murals to be unveiled next month
The courthouse murals are going up.
On Dec. 8, an unveiling celebration is planned to commemorate three murals painted by area artists.
The historic murals portray the challenges faced by early Kansas settlers.
Canvas murals by Ernst Ulmer and Michael Young will be glued to the walls above the Leavenworth County Courthouse stairway. Frames will be attached to the wall around each mural. And a third mural, slightly smaller, will be stretched over a wooden frame and hung at the front of the commissioners' meeting room.
"I'm thrilled," said Keyta Kelly, Leavenworth County counselor at large and one of those instrumental in the mural project. "I think it's good for the county. And it's gone far beyond what we thought it would. I haven't heard any negative comments."
The project began rather inadvertently, with Commissioner Clyde Graeber saying something should be hung on the blank wall at the front of the commissioners' room.
Kelly and others decided to see about obtaining a historical painting for the wall. They first talked to an out-of-county artist who quoted a $30,000 price.
But area residents complained because they wanted an artist from Leavenworth County to paint the mural.
So, early last summer, Kelly and others on the committee sought proposals and bids from local artists.
"We started interviewing and found that there was a plethora of all kinds of talented people," Kelly said. "And then we decided to see if we could push to get three murals."
In August, commissioners approved the purchase of the murals for a total price of $34,000. At that commission meeting, Graeber protested the purchase, saying when he suggested the idea he hadn't planned on it becoming such a big project. Commissioners Dean Oroke and Don Navinsky voted in favor of commissioning the murals.
Kelly said the murals would top off the county's recently completed $5 million courthouse renovation project.
And they will add to a collection of framed historic photographs - all taken in Leavenworth County - that last year were hung throughout the courthouse.
Kelly's interested in making the courthouse a destination spot for tourists.
"We're hoping that when people come down to see the murals that they'll tell their friends," Kelly said. "And as more people come to see the murals, hopefully they'll stop to eat, get gas, something of that nature."