For those of you that have been around for more than a decade might remember the chrome bumper steers that stood outside the Kansas Coliseum for 30 years. They were cool to look at; but skin-burning hot in the summertime. Still it was fun to see the steeds, and as a little boy, I always thought it was a little risque to clearly see they were boys.
With the creation of the Intrust Bank Arena, the Kansas Coliseum was retired into showbiz lore. I saw so many Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circuses there. Not to mention my first concert, “The Osmonds” I still regret when my mom’s pen ran out of ink and I could not get Jimmy’s autograph. Everyone liked Donnie, but I always thought Jimmy was the cute one. Over the years Dad and I sat through so many Wings games with our season tickets, we felt like regulars. Among the concerts I saw… Kenny Rogers, Cirque du Soleil, Blue Man Group, Ice Capades, The Smurfs on Ice, Bob the Builder, Cher, Martina McBride, Neil Diamond, and so many others that I can’t seem to remember.
The Coliseum opened in 1977 and closed in 2010. The arena was named after the former owner of the Wichita Eagle, Harry Britton (Britt) Brown Jr. The Britt Brown Arena had 9,686 seats, but could hold up to around 12,000 people.
The sculpture titled, “Two Steers” was made in 1972 by John Kearney, it was installed at the Coliseum in 1978.
So what happened to the steers?
According to the Wichita Eagle, the county recommended moving both steers to the Delano district. While Maize South High School, thinking they would make good mascots, asked for them. Repairs would cost around 87,000 dollars, which the school said they would pay if given the art piece. County officials thought more people would see the steers if they sat along the Arkansas River and the original Chisholm Trail. In November of 2011, the Eagle reported that one bull would go to Maize South (top slideshow) and the other to Delano (bottom slide show).
There are six more Kearney sculptures in Wichita. But first a little about the artist: John Kearney was born in Omaha on August 31, 1924. He learned his welding skills as a World War II U.S. Navy sailor. He went on to work in Chicago, Provincetown, and even Rome. He passed away on August 10, 2014.
Three of the sculptures can be found downtown at the Ruffin Building. The horse is outside. The giraffe and pig are inside.
So where are the remaining art pieces? There is a piece called “Grandfather’s Horse” at WSU. You can find in the meadow outside Hubbard Hall.
Several websites showed the Ulrich Museum was home to another sculpture. I stumped the lady at the front desk with my request. Mainly because I had the wrong first name for the artist. Finance and office manager, Joanna happened upon the scene and did some investigating for me. There was a piece at the Ulrich called “Best of Breed.” The statue of an Oxen team sat outside the Corbin Education Center. It is gone. Joanna talked to the Ulrich’s curator. “Best of Breed” was deaccessioned, which means it is no longer part of the collection. Shout out to the great people at Ulrich for helping me figure all this out.
The final piece, the 1976 “Cat” is at the Wichita Art Museum, but according to its website, it is “currently not on display.”