A look into architectures of the Flint Hills through the lens of historical sites, elemental materials, vernacular forms, and contemporary approaches.
Collaboration with Timothy A. Schuler. Featuring images from Elise Kirk, projects by El Dorado Architects and Ben Moore Studio, and materials from Luke Koch. Hosted by the Volland Store with funding from Humanities Kansas.
Middle of Everywhere explores the relationship between people and landscape through the prism of architecture — the hidden, the everyday, and the aspirational. By widening the aperture beyond traditional parameters, these images challenge the dominant narrative of architectural history in the Kansas Flint Hills and draw attention to histories in danger of being forgotten. Even as more contemporary work demonstrates architecture’s ability to make a rare and endangered landscape legible, its juxtaposition with the built infrastructure of colonial-capitalism is a reminder that architecture is a revealing art, a mirror that reflects humanity back to itself.
The project consists of an exhibition at The Volland Store, a panel discussion with an architect, preservationist, historian, and craftsperson, and an upcoming essay in Places Journal.
A series of photographic typologies featuring common structural forms in Chase and Marion counties.
Displayed at the Ebel Gallery at Tabor College and The Volland Store.
Growing up in a rural setting develops an eye for subtle forms — moments when the vast ocean of the prairie is broken by the surface patterns and structures of human development. Driving, riding, and walking on just about every road in the area over the past few years, these vernacular structures have begun to take on a sculptural quality — “skyscrapers” rising up in an isolated horizontal landscape, monuments to the shared priorities and everyday human activity in this place.
A collection of significant objects from the homes of college employees to commemorate the opening of a gallery on campus.
To commemorate the first ever art gallery on the Tabor College campus, I wanted to reflect on the ways that art was already present in the lives of the community. Over the course of several weeks, I invited myself into homes of people in the Tabor community — most of which I had never set foot in before — and we discussed what objects were significant and what values important to their idea of home. At the end of each visit, I asked if I could take an object to display in the opening exhibition.
Thanks to those who lent precious items from their private collections and were willing to be open and vulnerable in sharing a piece of their lives.
A panoramic photograph of the mile stretch that was home to one of the first Mennonite settlements in central Kansas.
Based on Ed Ruscha's Every Building on the Sunset Strip with text from the book Grace Meadow by David V. Wiebe.
The first Mennonite Brethren people to call central Kansas home settled just southeast of present-day Hillsboro in a place they called Gnadenau, or “Grace Meadow,” laid out in the Russian style of their previous homeland. The growth and decline of this small village highlights both the great effort put forth by immigrants to the area and the difficulty reckoning with the larger systems that brought them here.
The images are arranged in a scale reproduction of Ed Ruscha’s 27-foot-long photo book Every Building on the Sunset Strip, with text by Gnadenau Elder Jacob A. Wiebe and local newspaper reports of this new “strange village.”
When our fathers migrated to Russia they were given by Emperor Paul a Privilegium in which special freedoms were assured for all times.
In the year 1870 this document was recalled by the Czar. We asked for leniency but were told that we had to comply with universal conscription or leave the country.
We sold our belongings very cheaply.
Trusting God we set out on our journey.
We left our nice home in Crimea. When we had gone four Werst we could still see our beautiful Acacia trees in full bloom.
Finally, all we loved so much disappeared from our view. Goodbye — Goodbye, Annenfeld!
So faithful and obedient as we have been to Russia, so far as God’s Word and our conscience allows, so we have in mind to be in America, and to seek the peace of the land.
When we had bought land — twelve sections, we let our people follow us.
We hurried to get everything ready for the winter. I rented an empty store, bought a stove, table, horses, and a wagon.
While we waited for our families it was very hot, so that we have not had a greater heat since.
I came into temptations on account of the high winds, everything was dry and withered. Recently grasshoppers had taken all.
I knew soon our people would arrive.
I suddenly became afraid of the future — whether we would make our living here. The great responsibility of having selected a place of settlement for so many people rested heavily on me.
In my grief I sat down on the steps.
I thought of the poor families and their children, we had no provisions, no friends in the new world, the winter was nigh at the door, we were wanting of dwellings, agricultural implements, and seed, everything was high in price, some of ours were old, weak, and sick, the future seemed very gloomy, there were also no prospects of rain, only wind, dust and very hot, — all this fell over me.
I could not help myself but let my tears flow freely.
Late on Saturday night our people arrived.
So we rode in the deep grass to the little stake that marked the spot I had chosen.
When we reached the same I stopped. My wife asked me, “Why do you stop?” I said, “We are to live here.” Then she began to weep.
We did not want to take up homesteads. We did not want to become citizens as yet.
And so we sat in our poor sod houses, some two feet in the ground, the walls of sod, the roofs of long grass that reached into the prairie.
There were some twenty-five families of us living on one section, all in a row like a village.
Thus we came to America with many anxieties and crosses.
Gnadenau Elder Jacob A. Wiebe
Approaching from the east you ascend a gentle raise of table land and at the summit of this gentle slope is where these peculiar people have built their strange village.
At a distance it has the appearance of a group of hay-ricks, but on drawing nearer you will perceive human beings passing in and out.
We drove along an immensity of broken prairie before we arrived at the acres of sod corn and watermelons which mark the corporation line of Gnadenau.
The houses present every variety of architecture, but each house is determined on one thing, to keep on the north side of the one street of the town and face to the south.
The Mennonite system contemplates that the landholder shall live in the town and in the country at the same time.
The villages of Gnadenau and Hoffnungsthal are fourteen sections of land, yet all the farmers live in towns, each of a single street.
Near are gardens, and all around are the wide fields. Near each house were immense stacks of grain raised on the ground rented from men who were driven out last year by the grasshoppers.
We pulled up at what we would call an adobe hut, or wigwam, being constructed of prairie sod, cut in brick form and dried in the sun.
We were met at the door and invited in, and following, what was our astonishment to find ourselves plank upon the heels of a horse, but we were soon relieved by our hostess throwing open another door revealing a small passage, between a horse and a cow, leading to the presence of the family.
Each one came forward and said “welcome,” at the same time giving us a hearty shake of the hand.
We were not a little surprised at the neat appearance of the interior.
Instead of a stove, they have a large brick furnace, which will, they assured us, keep the room comfortable for a whole day with one heating.
When I asked “What will you use for fuel?” Their answer was: “Look around. We see it ready for our hands in every straw stack and on every prairie. Grass and straw are what our fathers before us have always used.”
The furniture consists principally of bedding, of which they seem to have an abundant supply.
Clothing could be and usually was of the finest material, but no lace or other ornamentation was allowed. Blue was a favorite color.
Nearly every family had an old fashioned German timepiece, reaching from the ceiling to the floor. Their yards are immense bouquets.
The grist mill at Gnadenau is running day and night.
At the top of the ridge we looked back into the wide, sunlit valley, and thought of the coming day when solid farm houses and great barns and waving orchards would line the long village street.
We slashed open a watermelon, and drank to the health of Gnadenau.
Intergenerational collaboration between college students and seniors.
With Tabor College photography students and residents at Parkside Homes modeled after Mark Strandquist's Windows from Prison.
For several years my Basic Photography course has done a collaborative exercise with Parkside Homes residents where students make a portrait of the resident and fulfill a request for a photograph for their room. The prints are then brought back to the residents and shared with a larger group.
A guide to (almost) every fire hydrant in Hillsboro, Kansas.
With Ellie and Abby Frye.
Hydrant Hunting is a fairly simple exercise: walk (or ride, or drive) around until you come across a fire hydrant, then take a picture with it. The bigger question is why hunt for hydrants? To understand for myself, I asked Fire Chief Ben Steketee for a list of every fire hydrant in Hillsboro, which he gladly provided (it’s public information) and then accompanied two seasoned Hydrant Hunters, Ellie and Abby Frye, on a series of expeditions around Hillsboro.
When did you start looking for fire hydrants?
E Probably about last year. We were in Kansas City, and I saw a bunch of gold ones, and other ones, and they were all cool so we started loving fire hydrants.
Where all have you looked for hydrants?
A All over.
E Here in our town, Marion, Kansas City … where else have we seen them? Oh yeah — Indiana, Chicago. We did some in France.
Do you like the hydrants in Hillsboro?
E Yeah, they’re cool.
Do you have any ideas for how they could be better?
E I have an idea! Let’s buy a bunch of hats and put them on hydrants!
A Ellie wants to buy all these hats from Et Cetera and then put them on all the fire hydrants.
Do you like the color of them?
E I think there should be some other colors like green, polka-dot, striped …
How would you paint a hydrant?
E Let me go get some better colors and then I’ll show you. Mama — draw one and then I’ll color it.
A When Katherine got me a notebook for my birthday I drew a dog peeing on a fire hydrant. I was really happy with that picture.
E Let’s take a picture of it. Wait, let me draw some clouds first.