It's official: HorseMania is back. On Monday afternoon, Lexington leaders kicked off the buildup for HorseMania 2010 — a repeat of Lexington's popular 2000 art horse celebration, with some new features tied to the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games at the Kentucky Horse Park next year.
There will be 79 artistically decorated horses in 2010 — just as in 2000 — plus four extras with an international flavor. Those four horses will come from Lexington's sister cities: Deauville, France; County Kildare, Ireland; Sinhidaka, Japan; and Newmarket, England.
As in 2000, area businesses will be asked to sponsor the horse statues, and artists will be invited to submit proposed designs for each sculpture.
Officials said the plan is for the decorated horses to go on public display in Lexington on July 1, 2010, and remain up for several months, adding artist interest and color to the equestrian games, which will be Sept. 25 to Oct. 10, 2010.
After the exhibit, in December 2010, the art horses will be auctioned off at Keeneland, with proceeds going to Central Kentucky charities, Lexington's public art program and the participating artists.
"I don't know about the rest of you, but I've been waiting for this since the first HorseMania hit the streets in 2000," Mayor Jim Newberry told spectators at Monday's kickoff, held outside Dudley Square.
Newberry said Horse Mania 2010 will be timed to be enjoyed by the many foreign visitors coming to town for the equestrian games, as well as by Lexingtonians. The display also will tie in with the Spotlight Lexington Festival being planned as a part of the equestrian games, he said.
Many horse statues from the original HorseMania nine years ago are still on display around town, Newberry noted, "doing what public art is supposed to do. ... They capture our imagination; they transform the places where we live and work; and they create more welcoming and beautiful environments for all of us to enjoy."
"I don't think we've had another public art undertaking that has been as successful as the original HorseMania," the mayor said. "I'm delighted we will be able to reproduce that event for our visitors who will be here in 2010."
Newberry urged area businesses to get involved by sponsoring horses for the event.
Seventeen businesses already have committed to be sponsors, according to HorseMania committee co-chairman Steve Grossman. Sponsorships are $5,000 a horse.
Bobby Freisberg, who owns Dudley Square, will sponsor the four horses to be designed by artists in Lexington's sister cities, Grossman said.
Those international horse statues will be flown to the four sister cities, decorated by artists there and then flown back to Lexington for display, said Jim Clark, president and chief executive of LexArts.
Clark said LexArts will invite artists to submit designs for the horses over the winter. A jury of experts then will select the winning designs in the spring, so that the artists can get to work on their pieces.
Lexington's sister cities will select artists from their own areas to decorate their horses.
Clark said officials think sponsors for the remaining horses will sign up quickly, even though economic times are tough. One idea might be for businesses to spread the cost by forming syndicates to sponsor statues, he said.
"We syndicate real horses; why not syndicate these horse statues?" he asked.
There will be three styles of horse statues for 2010: A new walking horse joins the standing horse and grazing horse statues from 2000.
Officials noted that HorseMania 2000 drew an estimated 150,000 people to Lexington and generated $750,000 for local arts efforts, as well as about $360,000 for roughly 75 local non-profit organizations.