- Associated Press - Monday, April 27, 2020

MISSION, Kan. (AP) - Richard Bergen, the artist who built the 22-feet (6.71 meters) bronze statue of a Native American that sits atop the Kansas Statehouse dome, has died. He was 95.

He died Wednesday at an assisted living facility in Salina of complications from a stroke, said his daughter, Lori Bergen.

Bergen, who was named Distinguished Kansan of the Year in 2006, created several other public art pieces through the state, including in Marysville, Salina, Junction City, Wichita and Manhattan.

But his most well-known work is the 4,420 pounds (2.21 tons) Capitol sculpture that depicts a loincloth-clad hunter with his bow drawn and arrow aimed at the North Star. Its name, “Ad Astra” comes from the state motto, “Ad Astra Per Aspera,” which is Latin for, “To the Stars Through Difficulties.”

It started in 1988 when Bergen won a contest sponsored by the Kansas Arts Commission, only to see the project delayed by concerns about cost, which eventually reached $1.6 million, much of it for structural and installation work. Lori Bergen said her father made no money from the project, adding “he cared more about Kansas than he did about money.”

It wasn’t hoisted onto the Statehouse dome until 2002. Private donations ultimately covered much of the cost.

Bergen noted at the time that Topeka was in the middle of what had been the hunting grounds of the Kansa or Kaw Nation, from which the state took its name. He said that made the statue seem even more appropriate to him.

“This is their property,″ he said. ”Who else would you put up there?”

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