Riding the wake of the midwest heat wave, I road-tripped south last weekend with my family. Destination? Manhattan, Kansas, home of KSU's fighting Wildcats and the newly completed Flint Hills Discovery Center. Many of the illustrations from my Tallgrass Prairie ABC are featured in the exhibits.
The center opened in April and I was happy to finally see the place in person. I had a book signing and gave a kid's program, then it was time to take in the center. A wonderful introductory short film defies description (be prepared for all your senses to become aligned to the tallgrass). The following interpretive areas are neatly organized to explain the particulars of tallgrass prairie, biologically, culturally, and beyond. You can take in the historical impact of european settlers. You can discover how tallgrass species are ingenious at survival. A sobering section on global warming and a children's activity area balances it all out. There will be changing temporary exhibits, too, but the permanent material would keep a visitor busy for years.
And of my work there? I will say I loved seeing it so LARGE. I'm used to viewing my illos in inches, not feet. The reproduction was beautiful. Much care and attention to detail went into every inch of this place of learning. Thank you to the Flint Hills Discovery Center staff, for generously hosting me last weekend, and to those who chose my illustrations to be part of it all.
In 2011, while I was still working on the mural artwork that now surrounds the interpretive area entrance, I watched the real-time outside construction camera installed there. It was winter and snow occasionally fell on the site. And then it was spring and a big blue Kansas sky was visible above the almost complete building. Now, where only an empty lot sat, a gorgeous structure of stone and glass stands, mimicing perfectly in spirit the tallgrass prairie of the Flint Hills. Journey down if you can. And also make time to see the real deal; take a hike in the Konza Prairie, a close-by natural research area open to the public, and also, the Tallgrass Prairie Nat'l Preserve, which is about an hour from Manhattan. And maybe, when you go, it won't be 109°!