One of the sculptures on the Horses Art Walk in Freehold.
One of the sculptures on the Horses Art Walk in Freehold.

FREEHOLD – The Half Mile of Horses Art Walk which opened this week along Main St is as artistically unique as it is a tribute to the history of horseracing and breeding industries in this section of Monmouth County.

   The unique parade of sculptured horses each designed and painted by a different local artist will remain along the main street until Oc. 15, Mayor Kevin Kane said this week.

One of the sculptures on the Horses Art Walk in Freehold.
One of the sculptures on the Horses Art Walk in Freehold.

   The idea is the brainchild of Brianne Van Vorst, chair of the Historic Preservation Commission and the program is being coordinated by the  Neighborhood Preservation  Program under the direction of Dominica Napolitano.

  “This exciting project demonstrates our commitment to the arts and the history of our community”, said Mayor Kane in congratulating the NPP Steering Committee and Napolitano, as well as the many volunteers who have contributed time and funding to make it all possible.

One of the sculptures on the Horses Art Walk in Freehold.
One of the sculptures on the Horses Art Walk in Freehold.

    The NJ Department of Community Affairs Neighborhood Preservation Program awarded a grant for the project, and local sponsorships contributed towards making it possible.

   One dozen model horse sculptures designed by local artists were selected from the 31 artists who applied for and submitted all the necessary preliminary materials and designs in order to be considered.

  Horses were selected for the theme of this visual, which is expected to draw thousands to the borough and well as encourage them to stay and frequent local shops and restaurants, since the equine industry is so much a part of Monmouth County and Freehold itself. Freehold Raceway is the oldest half mile horseracing track in the county and is still an active course, and horse farms are abundant in the western portion of Monmouth County.

  Residents and visitors are invited to view the artwork and vote on their favorites.

One of the sculptures on the Horses Art Walk in Freehold.
One of the sculptures on the Horses Art Walk in Freehold.

   To get the project underway, the borough solicited competitive proposals last May  and received  31 incredible  entries for the 12 available spaces, Napolitano said. The NPP Board then held a blind vote on each entry and the most popular entries were selected to go on to round two.

   The 12 finalists were then supplied with a replica horse model fabricated in the borough by local business Stone Dog Studios. The artists executed their designs on the horse which was then  mounted and publicly displayed. The sculptures line the sidewalks on East and West Main Street between Throckmorton and Spring streets. 

  Each of the entrants had to follow a strict set of regulations and had nine weeks to complete their sculpture. Designs had to be original and could not be of a political or religious nature. Each artist had to pick up his unpainted horse for his artistry at Stone Dog Studios, at 17 Bannard Street during the week of May 13, where they had also had  to be returned  by last month’s deadline.

  Kane also thanks the artists for their enthusiasm and number of entries, each of which required an application fee, as well as the Preservation Committee, NPP and Downtown Freehold who all worked together in collaboration on this innovative project.

     The Half Mile of Horses Art Walk is comprised of custom painted horse sculptures and provides an opportunity for artists and sponsors to participate in a public art project combining creativity and history as well as gaining recognition in local art culture, Napolitano explained.  The artists and sponsors are promoted through marketing material, written, social media, various events as well as the public display.

      Kane added he is hopeful this first of a kind display will  continue to generate interest in the Borough as an emerging Arts Destination, while at the same time enabling visitors to  try some of the other amenities the borough offers, including fine dining, local shops, services and the hottest free music scene in Monmouth County.  The borough is the county seat for Monmouth County and the borough itself was separated from Freehold Township and incorporated as a borough in the late 19th century.   

   “One of the main objectives of the Neighborhood Preservation Program is to spur revitalization of our commercial district, helping businesses grow and thrive and fostering repeat visits to our community,” Napolitano said. “While providing interest and an awesome experience for our community, we expect thousands of visitors from throughout the region to come and admire these unique sculptures.”

      There are QR  codes on the base of each of the sculptures to enable visitors to vote for their favorite sculpture.  A ribbon ceremony identifying the winning horses, Win, Place and Show will be a feature of the Fall 2022 season, the coordinator said.

   Further details can be found by visiting the website at .     

   Visitors to the site can also view the horses on the Freehold street and cast their ballots on the site for their favorites.

  The Neighborhood Preservation Program (NPP) began under the “Maintenance of Viable Neighborhoods Act” in 1975,  legislation which established a grants program  to encourage and promote social and economic strengthening and development of neighborhoods.  The mission is to accomplish these goals through cooperative, concentrated efforts of residents, local lending institutions, businesses, municipal governments, and the State.

A Stockholder team was named to ensure these values were followed. It includes

Councilwoman Annette Jordan, Business Administrator Stephen J. Gallo,

Dominica Napolitano, Planning Board / Land Use – NPP Coordinator

Michael Sweetman, Management Specialist, Matthew Young, Zoning/Construction/Fire Official, Jeffrey Friedman, Downtown Freehold and Special Improvement District coordinator, Brianne Van Vorst, who is also a member of the Historic Preservation Commission, the Rev. Ronald Sparks representing all the clergy in the borough and business owners Archana Sharma, owner of Aarzu Indian Bistro and Matthew  Borowski, 618 Restaurant.  

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Muriel J. Smith

Muriel J Smith

Muriel J Smith an award-winning journalist, former newspaper editor, book author and historian, Her newest venture is her blog, in...