Sawyers, get ready to be stampeded: The horses will soon be back. We don’t mean the flesh-and-blood creatures at HITS, but the fiberglass ones, each uniquely decorated by an artist. A reprise of the original iteration of the Saugerties Chamber of Commerce’s annual street art project, Horsin’ Around Saugerties, is gearing up for an unveiling on May 21 and installation by Memorial Day weekend. And now is prime time for prospective sponsors to step forward.
According to Mark Smith, proprietor of Pine Grove Studio and chair of the Chamber, the first such project in Saugerties took place in 2009, with inspiration and guidance from Catskill’s annual street exhibition of artist-designed cats. “The first two years we did horses,” Smith explained, posed in “different gestures…This year we’re doing one of the originals.” Based on sketches stored at Town Hall of these early models, the Chamber ordered 35 new fiberglass blanks to the same specifications – 34 inches long by 32 inches high – from Cowpainters, LLC, a woman-owned business in Chicago that specializes in this particular manufacturing niche.
While horses have been Saugerties’ most frequent street art theme, reflecting the Stallions baseball team and the significant role that HITS plays in the community, it has been quite a few years since fiberglass equines paid a visit. The theme for the art varies from year to year, although, according to Chamber vice-chair Peggy Schwartz, “We always try to do something that’s relevant to Saugerties.” For example, one year when the number of people retiring to the area took a noticeable uptick, the artworks took the form of chairs, “to show that Saugerties was a good place to hang out.”
Last year’s icon was Rocky the Owl, the tiny saw-whet owl famously discovered tucked among the branches of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in 2020. Rocky hitched a ride to Manhattan from Oneonta, but she was rehabilitated and released to the wild by Ellen Kalish, director of the Saugerties-based Ravensbeard Wildlife Center.
Prior to that, Flutterin’ Around Saugerties was the theme for the first two years of the COVID pandemic, with artist-decorated butterflies gracing the downtown streets. The wings for those models, as well as the sails for the sailboats featured in 2019, were created from marine plywood by local woodworker Gus Pedersen, Smith noted. This year Pedersen is making the bases for the horse models, which will come preattached when the artists pick them up at Schwartz’s business, Town and Country Liquors, beginning March 15.
All 35 participating artists have already been confirmed, but the organizers of the popular annual street exhibition are still actively soliciting sponsors. Applications to become a sponsor can be downloaded at https://discoversaugerties.com/horsin-around-saugerties. The levels for sponsorship are Bronze at $700, Silver at $900 and Gold at $1,200. Those who commit now can attend an Artists Meet Sponsors event at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 12 at the American Legion Post 72 at 30 John Street. There you will be able to look at the artists’ sketches for their projects and decide if you want to sponsor a particular work, rather than the event in general.
The inaugural public event for the Horsin’ Around Saugerties season, its venue yet to be confirmed, will be the preview showing on May 21. After that, the Department of Public Works will get busy installing the sculptures all around the downtown area, to be ready for visitation as of Memorial Day weekend. A map for a self-guided walking tour, including photos of all the horses, will be available from the Chamber’s Visitor Center at 117 Partition Street, as well as from many local businesses.
The horses will stay up through Labor Day, to be taken home by successful bidders at the Chamber Gala on September 10 at HITS. The auction this year will again be a hybrid affair, with bids beginning to be accepted online during the summer months and the final live bidding taking place at the Gala. The tour map will even include QR codes next to the photo of each horse that will take you right to the spot where you can place your bid on the auction website.
Sponsors of Horsin’ Around Saugerties will be entitled to seats at the Gala (two people at the Bronze Level, four at Silver and six at Gold). The event will be a brunch this year, culminating in the auction and including admission to the HITS Championship Grand Prix later in the afternoon. More information about ticket sales will be available closer to the date of the event.
The funds raised by the street art auction typically amount to about $30,000, Schwartz estimated. A portion of the proceeds goes to the artists, another to the Chamber, another to a scholarship fund for Saugerties High School graduating seniors and the balance to a local not-for-profit, which varies from year to year. “We’re open to suggestions and requests,” said Schwartz.