After 114 years of guarding Dyche Hall on the University of Kansas campus, four of the eight statues that decorated the exterior of the building were removed Sept. 1.
Referred to as grotesques, the limestone statues are carved fantastical animals, with various animal characteristics merged together and incorporated with KU paraphernalia. Mixtures of lions, goats, dogs, cats, elephants and jackals make up the figures, but some characteristics have eroded due to exposure of the Kansas climate since 1903.
“Each is a work of art created by Joseph Frazee at the turn of last century,” said Leonard Krishtalka, director of the KU Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum in a news release. “They are a unique mythological menagerie created specifically to honor Kansas and KU. They have suffered more than 100 years of Kansas wind, sun, snow and rain, and we are committed to replacing them with new hand-carved replicas.”
The four statues — about 3 feet tall — are now situated in their new home, in the Panorama Gallery of the KU Natural History Museum. Two of the states have been encased in Plexiglas and are visible to the public, while the other two are still encapsulated in plastic wrap to protect them from further damage, explained Jen Humphrey, Director of External Affairs for the history museum.
The museum plans to raise funds to hire an artist to replace each of the grotesques with carved replicas, as the originals can’t be repaired. The removal of the grotesques is part of a $4.2 million renovation funded by the state of Kansas. It will clean and repair the exterior stonework of Dyche Hall, replace the roof, windows and all internal walls, and install a new HVAC system for the seventh floor of the 1903 building. It will also restore the seventh floor to its original splendor, Krishtalka said.
The seventh floor of Dyche is home to thousands of mammal and bird specimens, and it houses the research offices and laboratories of KU Biodiversity Institute graduate students and scientists. Once completed in February 2018, the environment on the seventh floor will conform to established conservation standards that are ideal for study and housing of the research collections.
Bids for carving new grotesques are forthcoming, the news release stated, which will also determine the amount the university is also hoping to fundraise, in addition to the renovation.
Four additional grotesques on the east side of Dyche Hall will be removed later this fall and added to those on display in the museum. Humphrey explained that once the renovation is complete on the west and south side of the building, the scaffolding will be moved to the north and east side where the sculptures will be removed.
To support the fund for recreating the grotesques, visit the Biodiversity Institute website.
Contact reporter Savanna Maue at (785) 295-5621 or @CJFoodFun or @SavannaMaue on Twitter.