A 16-foot, 4,000 pound stainless steel sculpture recognizing Lexington jockey Isaac Murphy was welcomed into the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden Monday evening. In addition to honoring Murphy, the ceremony also commemorated Juneteenth, which celebrates the ending of slavery in the United States.
The sculpture represents Murphy, a black Hall of Fame jockey from the East End of Lexington, which is also home to the garden and in proximity of the neighborhood in which he grew up. The park lays on the site of his childhood home.
Two stainless steel horses, one grazing and one racing, serve as the base for an iconic picture of Murphy and a stylized horse shoe at the corner of Midland and Winchester and attract passersby to the plot of land in the busy intersection.
LexArts began the process of selecting art for the garden in 2009 before it was built in 2014. Several temporary pieces have been featured around the grounds, but this sculpture, “My Home is a Horse and Track,” will be the first permanent piece.
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The sculpture was designed by artists Neal and Tiffany Bociek from San Diego, Calif. The piece was assembled in Lexington by metal fabricator Andy Light because of the large size of the sculpture.
LexArts President and CEO Nan Plummer and Lexington Herald-Leader President and Publisher Rufus Friday were among the speakers at the ceremony who talked about the the importance and the funding of public art.
Murphy’s legacy has been ignored in equine history until recently, Plummer said. The garden is important for the East End because it has not been the subject or the site of much public art, she added.
“It’s another way, I think, for the East End to claims its culture,” Plummer said.
It’s about an unsung hero who represents a part of our community that is not otherwise represented in public art.
Nan Plummer, LexArts President and CEO
Public art, which Plummer described as art that is accessible almost any time of day, without charge, without barrier, and that offers a shared experience of a place and an idea, allows public input.
“Art is a subject about which intelligent, thoughtful, kind, loving people can and will disagree,” Plummer said.
Ella Bosley, a 95-year-old woman, and Terrell Russell, an 11-year-old boy from the East End, were the honorary ribbon holders. They were selected for the honor as a representation of Lexington’s historic past and future. East End residents were invited to come forward and help cut the ribbon.