Discovery Center Launches New Prairie Project

Discovery Center Launches New Prairie Project

The Discovery Center unveiled a new art installation in the museum's Native Prairie Grass and Wildflower Habitat and announced a multi-year Native American Public Art Installation Series during an event held on Thursday evening. It was a celebration of the Discovery Center's tallgrass prairie restoration and an initiative to incorporate public art into the space.

Over the past year, students from the University of Kansas School of Architecture and Design collaborated to design and construct a Pollinator Pavilion, which now serves as the entrance to the prairie. The project posed various design challenges, including the creation of a visually compelling structure that could anchor educational programs and withstand prescribed prairie burns. In addition to its practical functions, the pavilion is an intriguing piece of public art, symbolically conveying themes of adaptation, camouflage, coloring, and life cycles.

The pavilion's design mimics pollinator wings, featuring two intersecting panels made from overlapping tiles that resemble the natural pattern of feathers and scales. The students were guided by KU associate professor Keith Van de Riet. The Pollinator Pavilion was generously funded by a number of individual donors, community business partners (listed below) and The Blanche Bryden Foundation.

Attendees at the sunset event also discovered that the Pollinator Pavilion is just the first of many planned public art installations for the prairie. The upcoming Native American Public Art Installation Series will bring art installations and performances to the prairie each summer. The volunteer advisors organizing the art series include Lisa LaRue-Baker, Yale Taylor, and Dennis Rogers. Interested artists will have the opportunity to apply to participate in the coming months.

The event featured remarks by Discovery Center president/CEO Dené Mosier, KU associate professor Keith Van de Riet, and Discovery Center director of community engagement Marty Hillard. Dennis L. Rogers performed a hoop dance.

Once sprawling across North America as the world's largest ecosystem, the tallgrass prairie has significantly dwindled over time. Today, only an estimated 4% of its original territory, spanning 170 million acres, remains. The prairie at the Discovery Center, located outside the museum gates and freely accessible to the public, aims to allow families to explore this endangered ecosystem. The Discovery Center Prairie Restoration Project is managed by volunteer extraordinaire Vivien Smith.

Special Thanks to: Celeste Spickert and Isaac Cundiff, McClure Engineering, Sean Reardon and Craig Penzler, KBS Constructors, Inc, HME Inc., A1 Paint, Powder, and Sandblasting, AZZ Galvanizing, Foley Rental, Kansas Sand and Concrete, Inc, House of Rock Landscape Supply and Building Stone, Fastenal

Architecture Students: Sophey Shutt, Tianyi Han, Yuchuan Shi, David Tauser, Hanna Hissa, Ashlyn Caldwell, Cameron Ernst, Cole Erlemeier, Emily Flachs, Emme Schatz, Katie Drummond, Landon Dinkel

Architecture Studio Instructor: Keith Van de Riet

KU Architecture and Design: Ben Brown and TJ Tangpuz, Shop staff

To learn more about the prairie and follow the progress of the Native American Public Art Installation Series, visit