About 25 members of the Student Art League at UofL’s Hit Art Institute were commissioned this spring to paint five jockey statues at Churchill Downs in the winning silks of the jockeys who came away victorious in the Grade I stakes races  during the track’s 2014 Derby weekend.

There are seven jockey statues on display in the garden at Gate 10 and five of them needed a fresh wardrobe after the 2014 races, including the Kentucky Derby won by California Chrome and jockey Victor Espinoza and the Kentucky Oaks won by Untapable and jockey Rosie Napravnik.

The UofL students started prepping in late April with the instruction of associate painting professor Gabrielle Mayer. This was the first project for this incarnation of the Student Art League. 

Several of the students prepping the statues were Louisville natives who were honored to showcase their artistic skills and play a small role in the tradition of Churchill Downs.

“I’ve heard that people like to stop and watch the painting (when they’re at the track),” said Louisville sophomore Robyn Kaufman as the students began covering up last year’s silks. “I just love Churchill Downs.”

The collaboration between Churchill Downs and UofL was a natural partnership for the two neighbors.

“We’re delighted to show our support for UofL, which has been a wonderful community partner for many years,” said Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery. “The passion and talent within the Student Art League is unmatched, and we’re happy to provide a canvas and inspiration for these ambitious and gifted artists.”

The Student Art League received a $1,000 donation for the work and was also tasked with brainstorming additional ideas for ways to brighten up the track. An initial thought was creating a mural on the walls of the infield tunnels.

If a mural is what Churchill Downs wants, the UofL Student Art League is eager to help once the statues are completed after the last Grade I stakes race in June.


“It was nice to start the Art League off with a real project,” said Louisville freshman Brynn Gordon.

Watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LVwupuDD1M

Erica Walsh
Erica Walsh is the marketing director for the Office of Communications and Marketing. Her job lets her share UofL’s good news in all avenues of communications including UofL Magazine, advertising, content marketing and branding. Walsh joined UofL in 2014 after previously serving as the public relations specialist at Indiana University Southeast. Prior to her career in higher education communications she was an award-winning newspaper reporter. Red is one of her favorite colors and it’s a good thing, too, because she earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Western Kentucky University and her master’s in communication from UofL.