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Carousel horses used to spur interest in art

By By Steve Gillespie/The Meridian Star
Aug. 27, 2001
When Meridian resident Jamie Cater stepped off of a plane in Whitefish, Mont., last summer, she came face-to-face with a life-size, painted, moose sculpture.
Cater grabbed her camera, got a map, rented a car and set out to find all 15 other sculptured moose displayed across town. She also thought that carousel horses, done in the same style, would be a perfect fit for Meridian and increase awareness of art.
At the same time, Debbie Martin, manager of Cartmell Gallery in Meridian, was thinking about the same thing. Martin was familiar with similar projects in New York, New Orleans, other U.S. cities and Europe.
The two joined forces after Cater overheard Martin on the phone at the gallery asking about fiberglass carousel horse sculptures. Last week, they unveiled plans for a citywide project to place at least 12 horses around town next year.
Art project
Martin and Cater discussed their plans in-depth last week with The Meridian Star editorial board. Cater said that she was approaching the project as a way to expose "everybody to the art rather than a money-making project."
Businesses and individuals can sponsor carousel horses at $2,500 for each sculpture.
The money will cover the $1,800 cost of the horse and $250 for the artist who decorates it. The rest will fund installation and a plaque displaying the horse's name, sponsor and artist.
Any remaining money will go to Hope for Children, a charitable organization that helps abused and neglected children.
Besides life-size horses, Martin and Cater will let people buy table-top horses painted or decorated by celebrities and dignitaries. Those horses will be auctioned next spring, with proceeds going to Hope for Children.
Martin and Cater are organizing the auction as the "Around Town Carousels Abound Gala" at the historic Dentzel Carousel. The event likely will be in early April.
Martin said that actress Sela Ward and Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott have agreed to decorate table-top horses for the auction. Other well-known Mississippians will be asked to participate.
Artists selected
Martin said she sent about 200 letters to artists who might be interested in submitting designs for painting the life-size horses. The only stipulation: artists must be from Mississippi.
Artists have a Sept. 15 deadline to submit a design for their horse; a special committee must give final approval to the design. The carousel horses must be completely painted by Feb. 15.
Artists already selected include Meridian residents Charlie Busler, Denise Dengler and Greg Cartmell. Two other Meridian natives, Peyton Long of Oxford and Martha Hopkins of Birmingham, also will paint horses.
Once a horse is finished, it will go through the same technique other cities have used to preserve similar works: a special varnish will be placed on the horse, followed by a protective baked-on finish.
Steve Gillespie is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3233, or e-mail him at sgillespie@themeridianstar.com.