Lucas artist touched state, city
By MIKE CORN
LUCAS -- While Eric Abraham's death is being felt across the Kansas arts community, his death will leave a gaping hole in Lucas.
Abraham's pivotal role in the renaissance of Lucas during the past 10 years, his smiling face, his affinity to conversation and his willingness to be a big part of the art community ended early Saturday morning, when he died as a result of complications following surgery. He was 76 -- although he never would admit it.
"He always told me 29," Garden of Eden caretaker Lynn Scheider said of Abraham's admitted age. "He didn't want to get old. He didn't act like it either."
"If you ever met Eric," said Rosslyn Schultz, "just what you saw is what you got. Just a twinkle in his eye."
The Lucas community was stunned by the news.
Fellow artist Erika Nelson simply couldn't believe it when she learned of his death via a text message.
But Nelson knew it had to be the truth, because the message came from Lynn Schneider, who also serves on the board of the Grassroots Art Center.
Nelson said she received the message while attending an arts festival in Ohio.
"Exactly what Eric did for a living," she said of attending the arts festival. "It was a very bad way, a very sad way to hear about it."
Abraham, who worked with porcelain, moved to Lucas in 2004 from Wabaunsee County, purchasing a 6,000-square-foot former auto dealership building "in Beautiful Downtown Lucas, Kansas -- the home of the Garden of Eden and Grassroots Art Center -- where I set up my studio and gallery," he wrote of himself on his website.
Abraham liked to refer to himself as a world-famous artist, even signing his biography "EA -- World Renowned Professional Professor of Porkelain Proficiency."
As the owner of the Flying Pig Studio, no matter the piece of art, Abraham found a way to slip a flying pig into the porcelain finished product -- hence the work "Porkelain."
His nearly 10 years in the Lucas community, Schneider said, apparently was the longest Abraham has spent anywhere.
While Abraham lived and worked in a community that prides itself on untrained artists, his was a lifetime of art, starting with his parents who were artists with the Works Progress Administration.
He received a bachelor of fine arts from the Kansas City Art Institute and his master's from the University of Nebraska. He taught at Kansas State University, and then struck out on his own.
In Lucas, Abraham was a key player in many artistic ventures, and one of the first to suggest the community needed a public restroom, what with its goal to bring people to the Grassroots Capital of Kansas.
He all but turned over a big portion of his building to efforts to create the artistic restroom, keeping with the theme of the city.
Abraham created the swirling water -- out of porcelain, naturally -- that welcomes visitors.
Schultz said Abraham was able to see the project from the abstract and often came up with ideas to keep the price low so the community could afford it.
"It's a tremendous loss for the community," she said.
Schultz was among those who helped entice the artist to settle in Lucas and has been in contact with his small family, which includes a daughter and a grandson.
"He was such a positive face here," she said. "I don't know, it will be a big hole on Main Street."
Abraham served as vice president of the board of the Grassroots Art Center, which Schultz manages, and he was on the board of the Red Barn Studio Museum in Lindsborg. Schneider also serves on the Grassroots board.
For Nelson, it's a huge blow to the arts community in Lucas, and the loss of a friend.
"I think everyone who ever met him for 10 minutes would call him a friend," she said.
Arrangements are pending.