Horsing Around in Bruce Park

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One of the most beloved citizens in Greenwich was no doubt Mrs. Beatrice M. Brittain.  She was the founder and first President of the Greenwich Arts Council.  Mrs. Brittain initiated a project to help celebrate the 350th Anniversary of the town.  She thought public art should reflect the quality and excellence of the community.  Greenwich should have a major work of American sculpture to honor the town.  As a result, she was able to raise $150,000 in private donations for two horse sculptures, which can be seen today in Bruce Park.

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Ms. Deborah Butterfield from Bozeman, Minnesota, was chosen to create the sculpture.  She had received a BA (1972) and MFA (1973) from the University of California - Davis.  Her works had been exhibited in the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Whitney Museum and Metropolitan Museum in New York, and the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C.  Ms. Butterfield even exhibited in Jerusalem.  Two of her horse sculptures are located at Copley Square in Boston.  Coincidently, Deborah owns her own horses and rides frequently.  She believes her understanding of horses contributed to her artwork.  Her educational credentials are impressive.  She has been a visiting lecturer, visiting artist, assistant professor and adjutant assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin and Montana State University.  In 1990, Ms. Butterfield was an Albert Dome Visiting Professor at the University of Bridgeport.

The sculptures were made from sticks, logs, bark - mainly driftwood.  The pieces were cast in bronze at the Walla Walla Foundry in Washington DC.  Ms. Butterfield was responsible for welding all the pieces together.  The result was two horse sculptures, which weighed 1400 pounds a piece!  Two flatbed trucks were required to transport the sculptures to Greenwich.  They arrived on May 2, 1990. 

Six employees from Parks & Recreation used ropes and a forklift to place the horses.  It took about 30-minutes to place the sculptures.  Ms. Butterfield had reviewed the area to make sure the art was placed in just the right spot.  She selected an area overlooking the lawn bowling / croquet court and a small stream which wove through the area.  Eight holes were dug to anchor the feet in cement.  The horses were named Orson and Valentine.  These names were probably meaningful to the sculptor.

On May 16, 1990, 40-members of the Art Council and friends dedicated the sculptures.  Champagne, orange juice and mineral water was served.  There were several prominent speakers including First Selectman John Margenot.  The larger- than- life sculptures were said to represent character, movement and spirit.  It should be noted that the Town accepted the gift from the Arts Council with the stipulation that the Town would not be responsible for maintenance of the statues.

In 1993, Rene Anselmo - known for donating artistic street signs to the Town - spent $39,685 to have a beautiful wooden fence installed around the lawn bowling green.  The only problem is that it blocked the view of the sculptures.  Before there was a chain link fence there, and the view was not obstructed.  Ironically, Anselmo had not received permission to install the wooden fence.  When he offered to give it to the town, the Board of Estimate and Taxation voted twice not to accept it!  It was finally accepted on the third vote.

A committee composed of representatives from the Bruce Museum, Greenwich Arts Council and Parks & Recreation Department sent a video Ms. Butterfield so she could select another site for the horses.  She finally decided on a location in Bruce Park near Davis Avenue.  Orson and Valentine were finally moved to their present location in Bruce Park near the sun dial and time capsules. 

Unfortunately, the horses became the target of vandalism.  In April 1996, vandals painted the horses with flourescen neon orange paint!  There was much deliberation about the restoration of the horses.  A consultant was hired to test removal of the paint.  Officals were afraid the bronze, coloring and patina (tarnish) might be compromised.   Furthermore, if the cost was less than $500, the town would have to pay for the repair.  If repairs cost over $500, insurance would pay for it.  The cost was about $3,500 so the Town was off the hook! 

By September 1996, about $4000 was raised from private donations.  Workers from the Walla Walla Foundry came out to remove the pink and green neon-colored paint.   They also noticed damage from acid rain.  As a result, they removed the corrosion, restored the patina, and sealed the statues with hot wax to prevent new vandalism.  

A subcommitte of the Arts Council with representatives from Bruce Museum, Parks & Recreation andthe Arts Council, called Arts in Public Places, set up a special fund to take care of other outdoor sculptures in the future.  In August 2007, members of the Committee volunteered their time to clean and wax the sculptures.  Distilled water and soft clothes were used to wipe down the horses.  Wax was applied to retard and paint that might be used to vandalize these artworks.  Currently - and hopefully in the future - you'll be able to see Orson and Valentine standing majestically  as you weave your way through Bruce Park.

SOURCE:   Greenwich Time (Hearst Corporation)




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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Carl White published on July 12, 2012 11:59 AM.

The Dinnertime Bandit was the previous entry in this blog.

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