The council is again soliciting prospective artists to decorate about two dozen of these life-sized horses, which are expected to adorn the streets of Saratoga in time for racing season next year. Apparently, the first exhibit in 2002 was “so amazing” that all the camera-toting tourists made Broadway seem like a “giant scavenger hunt,” the council states on its artist application.
Like before, the horses will be cut from the same mold and look homogenous, with exception to the artist renderings gussying them up. Artists are vying for a $1,000 cash prize for their work, which will be on display from May through October.
And during that time, the council is banking on the city police to keep a good eye on these gigantic vandalism magnets, which also drew a fair number of ambitious drunks who did their best to undermine, remove or otherwise damage these kitschy monstrosities. In fact, it seems almost wrong to prosecute such vandals given the history –both recent and past –that such displays have experienced.
As some might recall, 22-year-old Pat Hutchins managed to get the horse dubbed “Spirit” free from a Broadway storefront. The former Skidmore hockey player was allegedly found by police after they tracked drag marks back to his downtown apartment; he was later sentenced with probation and ordered by a city judge to write a letter of apology.
Around the same time, 20-year-old Eric Ross and 18-year-old Christopher D. Villanova, both of Amsterdam, along with a 15-year old girl who went unnamed by city police, were busted for grabbing the colt ''My Petite Fleur'' and then dumping the sculpture in the Schoharie Creek where it was later found by kayakers. The theft sparked a wave of denunciations from area business owners and local state legislators, who actually levied a reward for information that eclipsed the grand prize offered by the arts council for winning the competition.
More recently, the town of Guilderland in neighboring Albany County has experienced its own troubles after dabbling in this plastic pedigree of sculpture this summer, only with pigs instead horses. As the media reveled in telling and retelling, both the tawdry sculptures of “Bruce Pigsteen” and “Liberty” were pilfered by vandals within a 10-day period over the summer.
Unfortunately, the arts council hasn’t learned the moral of this story: if you place ridiculously tacky sculptures everywhere, they're bound to be vandalized. True, anything located on a main pedestrian bi-way leading to the liquoring joints is bound to fall prey to drunks. But these sculptures seem particularly inviting, seeing as though they look more like a hackneyed way to pull in a few extra tourist dollars rather than representations of a vibrant arts community.
Here’s a novel idea, rather than supply these oversized cookie-cutter Breyer horses, perhaps the arts council could allow the artists to create their own sculptures. Maybe this would at least weed out the more sober of the prospective vandals who simply have a vendetta against plastic chamber of commerce advertisements masquerading as artwork.