by Ed Lawrence, Arts Marketing Director, Kentucky Arts Council
When I put out an invitation to Kentucky Crafted artists to exhibit at the Governor’s Derby Celebration in downtown Frankfort, I quickly got a response from Audrey Schulz. She indicated that she would like to participate and it might be her last hurrah. This got me worried because I thought this wonderful artist who has been making soft-sculpture horses since the early 80s was quitting. I knew Audrey had been involved with the Kentucky Crafted program since I came to work for the Kentucky Arts Council in 1994 and had been a part of the program (formerly Department of the Arts, Crafts Division) at its inception.
A telephone conversation with Audrey allayed all my fears and convinced me that this 84-year-old artist will probably be painting horses and creating soft-sculpture animals for another 20 years. When I told her how remarkable it is that she is still working at her age, Audrey said, “I never thought of age.” She firmly believes that creating artwork and being active are the keys to health and longevity.
Audrey made her first soft sculpture for a friend who was in the hospital. She described it as “a drunken horse with a garland of roses.” A coworker saw it and offered her $40 for it and that’s when the business idea began. She had her designs copyrighted in 1983. She credits a lot of her start-up success to then First Lady Phyllis George Brown, followed by Gov. Martha Lane Collins and current Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen, who headed up the Department of the Arts during the Collins administration. Her work was introduced at the New York International Gift Fair by Gov. Collins along with a number of other Kentucky craft artists who were being introduced to national and international wholesale markets. There is no exact count of how many horses she has made over the years but she knows it is in the thousands. Her whimsical creatures have been carried by Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus and other fine shops across the nation. Although she no longer participates in Kentucky Crafted: The Market, Audrey claims that the Market is responsible for the continued success of her business. She has established so many accounts over the years that she now gets as many orders as she can fill. www.audreyschulzhorses.com
Every day I come to work, I am reminded of Audrey Schulz. My office is right across the way from the Kentucky Department for Travel and Tourism main reception area. Proudly displayed among a number of Kentucky crafted items is Audrey’s galloping thoroughbred ready to run in the Kentucky Derby.
Be sure to come to the Governor’s Derby Celebration in downtown Frankfort, May 2, 2015, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Audrey Schulz will join nine other Kentucky Crafted artists in the Kentucky Arts Council’s sales tent on the Old Capitol Lawn.