If you have an opportunity to visit Heritage Square Park, check out the sculpture next to the pond. It’s called Heritage Woman and it was created in 1976 by Richard Bergen. He was commissioned to create it by the Junior League.
Bergen once described the work as “an abstracted nude figure of a pioneer woman preparing herself for a cool dip in a Kansas stream.”
Dr. Richard Bergen was born in Palm Beach, Florida on January 7, 1925. He grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Bergen served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. After leaving the service, Bergen moved to Salina and attended Bethany College on the G.I Bill. During this time, he met his wife, Lou Ann. They were married in June of 1953. The couple made their home in Kansas.
During the 50’s and 60’s Bergen was the director of art education in the Salina School system.
In 1967 Bergen became a professor of art and the chair of the art department at Marymount College.
Bergen and his son, Rich, opened a studio cleverly called the Bergen’s Sculpture Studio. You can still visit the Salina studio now known as Bergen’s Art LLC.
Bergen’s sculpture, Ad Astra, is probably his most famous. It stands on the top of the capitol in Topeka. At the time he said, “With this project, I endeavored to break down what made Ad Astra and how it interacts with local and national culture.”
It’s such a striking figure, I thought I would share a picture of it.
I would be remiss if I did not mention Bergen’s other works in Wichita. This is called EcoEvolution. It was created by Bergen and Steve Murillo. Murillo was involved in the Railroad Corridor project.
He also sculpted the Korean War Memorial in Wichita’s Veterans Memorial Park. It was dedicated June 2, 2001
Back to the small park in Wichita. For nearly 30 years, the Heritage Woman statue went undisturbed, but starting in 2005, it was repeatedly vandalized. After being knocked off her pedestal, she was sent back to Bergen, who was in his 90’s, to fix the damages. The statue returned in time for the NCAA tournament in 2018.
Later that year, Lou Ann passed away on September 4, 2018.
Bergen passed away on April 22, 2020. He lived to be 95 years old. He may be gone, but his legacy and art live on.
Check out some of Wichita’s other fantastic pieces at How Great Our Art
You must be logged in to post a comment.