Paris Pike, one of 82 horses that took to the streets of Lexington last week as part of Horse Mania 2010, was the first horse I noticed as I drove home on its opening day. Since then, walking around downtown has been like a scavenger hunt.
"The horses were concentrated downtown so people could have a walking tour," said Jim Clark of LexArts.
Interesting public art such as the horses will be a major draw to downtown during the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games this fall. It is "one way of involving the artistic community with this big celebration," Clark said.
The response to the horses, which Clark said has been "incredibly positive," is obvious to anyone traveling through downtown. The horses have had a steady stream of admirers. Many of these visitors probably remember the last Horse Mania.
It was in Lexington in 2000, reflecting the popularity of similar public art projects in other cities. Cincinnati had pigs, New York had cows, and Lexington had horses. The question was whether the project would be repeated.
The popularity of the horses in 2000 was persuasive; the games just "helped to solidify the decision," Clark said.
After the announcement of the Games, it was decided that Lexington would once again have Horse Mania.
When the call for artists went out, LexArts received more than 400 design submissions from more than 200 artists, which were narrowed down by and then selected by the many sponsors.
Fayette County schools also got involved, contributing horses and foals designed and painted by students from elementary to high school, which can be seen at public libraries.
The horses on the street are as varied as those in 2000, although some bear a resemblance to their predecessors and some are a little bland.
But there is an array of ideas and materials to be found, as demonstrated by the ever-original Robert Morgan's horse, Star Dust Memories, at Main and Quality streets.
Artists Dan Neil Barnes and Phillip Rodriguez branched out by installing illuminated stained glass into the body of their fiberglass horse, Day Star. It stands at 300 West Vine Street.
At South Mill and West Vine streets, Bourbon Barrel Horse by Brian D. Endicott is one of the simple painted horses, but the attached bung and golden touches add extra charm. The brass plate of bourbon facts attached to the horse's side will be educational to Lexington's guests at the Games.
Nearby, James R. Southard's Glorious Cartographer, on the Vine Street side of the Fifth Third Bank building, also offers tutelage, this time in Kentucky geography.
Two of the most visually interesting horses are 1 hp and The Industrial Evolution, both of which had artists willing to take liberties with their fiberglass forms. 1hp by Carl Coakley, at South Limestone and Maxwell Street, is clad in engine parts, playing on the idea of the horse as a vehicle. Great care was taken in arranging the struts, intake grille and other parts appropriately on the horse's frame.
This theme is continued with The Industrial Evolution. Artist Damon Farmer manipulated the horse by cutting away at the form, adding trompe l'oeil detailing and attaching materials to create an antiqued mechanical horse. The horse isn't downtown — it's at 201 Walton Avenue — so you'll have to seek it out.
"I am awed by the total range of talent and the creativity that is being expressed through these horses," Clark said. "Our artists have outdone themselves."
The horses will be auctioned off Dec. 11 to benefit LexArts and various charities chosen by the sponsors, but they will be on the street and accessible to everyone until the end of October. So be sure to keep an eye out for horses as you go through town. The variety and the accompanying excitement prove this was a project worth repeating.