“I have to go to the bathroom!” It’s amazing the amount of dread that these seven words can create in a parent. How many road trips are interrupted in a mad pursuit of an acceptably clean public restroom? In Lucas, Kansas, the influx of tourists wanting to view the “Grassroots Art Capital of Kansas” created the need to build a public restroom facility. Not ones to do things on a regular level, the artistic forces of this Central Kansas town constructed Bowl Plaza. This “Bathroom with Bling” would end up becoming a landmark all on its own.

We would like to thank the Lucas Chamber of Commerce for their hospitality. Rest assured all opinions are our own.

A sign presents a play on words as it showcases American "Fork" Art.

Art On Another Level

Lucas, Kansas is not your run-of-the-mill Midwestern town. Travelers will quickly see that folk art seems to spring from every space, in this city of around 400 residents. Each year, 15,000 visitors come to Lucas to check out the sights. One of the biggest attractions is S.P. Dinsmoor’s “Garden of Eden”, which includes his post-Civil War cabin. On this property, he created a variety of statues and sculptures. To say that it is an amazing testament to one man’s mission would be an understatement. (We will have more on this subject next week.) With so many tourists passing through, the local businesses became flooded with requests for bathroom breaks. The solution was the addition of a public restroom.

A couple of pieces of folk art are displayed in Lucas, Kansas.

The suggestion was made to add it to an open lot on Main Street. As you may expect, there were some in the town who were cold to this idea. I mean, who wants a giant toilet right on the main drag through town? Fortunately, the idea had enough merit to stay afloat until renderings could be shown to residents. Once the overall project design had been seen, many more warmed up to the idea. The actual building didn’t require the use of the entire lot, so space remained for additional artwork. On display we found an assortment of sculptures that showcased the eclectic nature of Grassroots Art.

The outside ring of the bowl is highly decorated with mosaics.

Plunging Into the Bowl

Keep in mind that the overall appearance of the site is that of a huge toilet, complete with tank, lid, and bowl. The bowl section is split in two and offers benches for seating. All around the perimeter are mosaics created by the artists of Lucas. In the center of the bowl is a circle of artwork that represents the swirling water. It is filled with all manner of artifacts that would potentially wind up heading toward a watery grave. A miniature dog, named Beauregard Flushmeister, stands watch over the swirling vortex.

A roll of toilet paper serves as a pathway at Bowl Plaza, in Lucas, Kansas.

A small pathway leads off from the bowl and ends at a large roll of toilet paper. This artistic creation seemed to be very popular with the kids who visited during our stay in town. Even Crystal felt the urge to investigate it in greater detail .

The interior of the women's restroom, at Bowl Plaza, is covered with mosaics.

Onward and Inward

As decorative as the outside is, it barely holds a candle to the interior. With the help of donations from residents, the mosaics cover an amazing amount of the space. The women’s room is filled with colorful pieces created from a wide range of objects. We saw masks, tea cups, birds, pottery, shells, and even of glass flowers. The longer you inspect the space, the more details you discover.

The men's restroom is decorated with items donated by local residents.

Stepping into the men’s room, we find the decorations to be just as vivid, although the pieces are different. After viewing the Women’s room, we were more prepared to explore the various items that make up the decorations. In this room they used toy cars, dominoes, wine bottle corks, Avon cologne decanters, and a variety of toys. While the materials are different, the overall appearance is just as complete. The women’s and men’s rooms are designed to be available for viewing from all, just be sure they aren’t in use.

The authors pose for a "bathroom selfie" at the Bowl Plaza in Lucas, Kansas.

Bowl Plaza Bathroom Selfie

There are so many puns and jokes that could go with this article, but we will just leave those to your imaginations. Bowl Plaza brought a national focus to Lucas, Kansas in 2014, when it was highlighted in the “America’s Best Restroom Contest”. Competing with public bathrooms across the nation, Bowl Plaza ended up being selected as number two. We are guessing that the residents were pleased with this showing. These days Lucas has added the restroom to its list of tourist attractions to check out when you visit. It’s pretty obvious that most travelers will be happy to know there is a place they can go, and check out the art while there. Now when the kids say those scary seven words, you’ll be ready to tell them a little background on their pit stop. So have you ever taken a bathroom selfie?

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