Pittsford artists work to restore 'Freedom' horse

Andrew Hyman
Updated: August 23, 2020 10:05 PM
Created: August 23, 2020 07:04 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) - The work to bring back a once vandalized memorial along I-490 is just about done.

Pittsford artists Madelyn and Robert Whiteside are currently putting the final coats of paint on the fiberglass horse known as “Freedom.”

The sculpture and 9/11 memorial sat in the median between both the Winton and Culver Road exits for 19 years before it was recently vandalized with red paint.

"That annoys me that people would take that away from so many," Robert says.

In a special ceremony that came complete with a small motorcade, Rochester Police removed the horse from its post on Aug 4. before it was dropped off at the couple’s home to be refurbished.

For the Whitesides, it was a reunion of sorts, as they were the horse's original designers 19 years ago.

"Freedom" was an addition to the 2001 campaign known as “Horses on Parade” which was founded by Dixon Schwabl’s CEO Lauren Dixon.

The couple commissioned a similar horse called “America” which is on display at the Greater Rochester International Airport.

“Little did we know that it would be such an event," Madelyn says.

Coming in, the couple says the horse had problems beyond the paint, as it is 19 years old and was starting to show its age. So, for the last three weeks, they have spent hours and hours breaking it down to its original base, then built it back up, and of course, are adding the fresh red, white and blue coat.

"We are proud to be able to bring it back, better than I believe than its original state," Robert says.

"You know you got a look at it you got to turn it around and look at is the glass empty or is it full, we want to keep it full," Madelyn says.

This includes moving forward from the vandalism, where a culprit has not been caught or named.

The Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce owns the horse and previously said it does not know how much it will cost to repair the damage.

The duo says restoring and returning the horse could inspire hope and represent a sign of strength and stability at a time where things are anything but stable.  From their home garage, the horse will go to another garage, where it will receive its finishing touches, and lastly, it will return back to where it stood for the last 19 years.

According to Dixon Schawbl, Freedom will be put back some time in ‘early to mid-September.’ It's part of a collaborative effort between the City of Rochester, RPD Lieutenant Richard Waldo (who spotted the vandalism and is assisting with efforts), and AP Enterprises. 

“Our community is making it right together by fixing ‘Freedom’ the horse so we can get it back in place on 490 very soon. It shows the goodness in Rochester, and community coming together to fix the ‘Freedom’ monument. It’s not hard to find these stories in our region if we keep our eyes open to them. We will focus on kindness, not destruction," Lauren Dixon said in a statement. 

"I liken this to one of our kids, you know if something happens to your child, you do whatever you can to repair it, and that's what we have done," Madelyn says.

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