Loula Long Combs posed formally for the camera, with groom Johnny Haffey. She is in her favorite carriage on the practice ring on the street just down from Gladstone Blvd. (homes are in the background, circa 1915.
The Kansas City Museum announced in August that it is working with artist and historian Ed Dwight and International Architects Atelier to create a new weathervane for the Carriage House at the Kansas City Museum. The museum is in the early stages of architectural design for the restoration and renovation of the Carriage House, with the Carriage House slated to open by 2026.
Born in 1933 and raised in Kansas City, Kansas, Ed Dwight joined the U.S. Air Force in 1953. After completing pilot training, he served as a military fighter pilot and obtained a degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Arizona State University. In 1961, Dwight was chosen by President John F. Kennedy to enter training as an Experimental Test Pilot in preparation to become the first African American astronaut. Dwight completed the Experimental Test Pilot course and entered Aerospace Research Pilot training in preparation for astronaut duties. He successfully completed the course and continued to perform duties as a fully qualified Aerospace Research Pilot. Three years after the death of President Kennedy, Dwight left the military and began new endeavors.
Ed Dwight’s childhood dream was to become an artist, but he was encouraged by his father to become an engineer. His first serious artistic endeavor began with a commission in 1974 to create a sculpture of Colorado’s first African American Lt. Governor, George Brown. Thereafter, he was commissioned by the Colorado Centennial Commission to create a series of bronzes entitled Black Frontier in the American West. The series depicted the contribution of African Americans to the opening of the West. Few facts were known about Black pioneers, explorers, trappers, farmers and soldiers. Through using his newly developed and unique artistic style, Dwight opened the minds of viewers to this unknown history of the American West.
Ed Dwight has an extensive portfolio of artworks in private and public collections throughout the United States. For the Kansas City Museum, Dwight will design and fabricate a new weathervane for the top of the cupola on the roof of the Carriage House. (The original weathervane was removed between 1914-1917 and taken to Longview Farm.) The first building completed on the property in 1909 for the Long family’s horses, the Carriage House will be restored and renovated for exhibits about Loula Long Combs and the often untold stories of Kansas City’s equestrian history. The Carriage House will also include space for programs and events as well as administrative offices for the Kansas City Museum and its partners. The paddock area adjacent to the Carriage House will be restored and renovated to be used by horses when they are on property for programs and events.
Ed Dwight’s new weathervane will be 5’x 7′, functional, and made of copper and bronze. It will include a tribute to Loula Long Combs and Tom Bass, who were both leading figures in the American Royal Horse Show.
Loula Long Combs (1881-1971), the youngest daughter of Robert Alexander Long and Ella Long, had a lifelong passion for horses. Mr. Long built Longview Farm partly to house and breed the champion horses Loula rode in shows in North America and Britain. Considered the grand dame of show-horse owners, Loula rode her first horse at age 4. In 1917, she married Robert Pryor Combs, a pastor’s son several years her junior and made Longview her permanent home.
Tom Bass (1859-1934) was a world-renowned saddle horse rider, trainer and equestrian showman. Born into slavery in Boone County, Missouri, he was the first African American to ride in the American Royal Horse Show. Bass represented Missouri at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 and invented the Bass bit, a horse bit that mitigated the pain of horses during training. Bass was well respected throughout the region and made a career working with horses as well as their owners including Loula Long Combs and her manager Dave Smith. Bass married Angie Jewell, and they had one son, Inman.
Kansas City Museum Foundation Chair Allen Dillingham and Vice Chair Sonié Joi-Thompson Ruffin emphasize, “We are honored and proud to commission a work by Ed Dwight, who has a long-standing commitment to the Greater Kansas City Metropolitan area. This commission brings together intersecting personal stories that exemplify the integrated relationships at the core of our history. Dwight’s work atop the Carriage House will contextualize the exhibits and provide another layer of opportunity for learning, representation, and connection.”
To learn more about the Carriage House Weathervane at the Kansas City Museum, visit kansascitymuseum.org. To learn more about Ed Dwight, visit www.eddwight.com. As the design stages progress, more information and renderings will be updated on the museum’s website.
–Anna Marie Tutera