COMMONWEALTH COMPASSION: Horses of Hope
In December 2021, violent winter tornadoes ripped through western Kentucky, destroying everything in
their path and causing scores of deaths, hundreds of injuries, and an estimated $4 billion in damage. It was the
deadliest December tornado event ever recorded in U.S. history. Especially hard hit were the counties of Graves,
Hopkins and Warren.
In an effort to bring a bit of brightness to the devastation, LexArts and Independence Bank came together
to bring the healing power of art to those communities hardest hit. In this unique collaboration, Independence
Bank funded three Horse Mania horse statues to be designed and created by high school art students from those
areas suffering the most damage. Three Lexington artists – Jerielle Hanlon, Lennon Michalski, and De Selby –
were chosen to work with and mentor the students in their creative endeavor. Zoom calls with the artists and their
protégés yielded themes of memory, hope and renewal. Design concepts emerged, were drafted and refined. The
students then traveled to Lexington for a weekend of working with the artists to bring their designs to fruition.
The horses were ceremonially unveiled by Governor Andy Beshear in the capitol rotunda on April 29, 2022.
After exclusive one-day excursions to the affected communities, the horses were brought back to Lexington to
be on display as part of the full Horse Mania public art program. While the horses themselves provided healing
for artists and communities, they also provided an opportunity to raise money for storm relief. The three horses
are to be auctioned at Keeneland – the largest and most prominent Thoroughbred auction house in the world
– nearly a year to the day after the tornadoes struck. The Horses of Hope will then be permanently displayed in
the storm-impacted areas of Graves, Hopkins and Warren Counties as a permanent symbol of resilience and a
constant reminder that other Kentuckians cared. Art, indeed, is powerful.