“Stacy, it’s Di. I know you are swamped with storm assistance, but I have a wild idea I want to run by you,” a text message read to Stacy Berge from Di Boyer on December 16, 2021. Stacy quickly replied, and a phone conversation followed. Di Boyer, LexArts Director of Giving, recalls the conversation, “What about LexArts and Independence Bank collaborating and creating Horse Mania horses for the Western Kentucky communities that were severely impacted by the tornadoes?”

Reflecting on that phone call, Di added, “As a fundraiser for forty years, this was the quickest ‘yes, yes, yes’ I have ever received.” And what came next was a beautiful collaboration where both organizations came together to develop what is now known as Commonwealth Compassion: Horses of Hope. “At each and every step along the way, we all kept asking ourselves, ‘Why not? What if? Why couldn’t we do that?’ It was amazing to see a variety of folks in our Bank come together with LexArts to create and contribute,” Independence BankLexington Market President Stacy Berge shared.

These ‘what ifs’ turned into weekly meetings where plans prospered. What if we paired prominent Lexington artists with high school art students from the storm-affected counties of Graves, Hopkins, and Warren Counties? What if we introduced the students to the artists on zoom, and they created a design on paper? What if we brought all the students, their families, and their art teachers to Lexington for a weekend to paint together on the fiberglass horses? What if we not only created these horses as a sign of hope and healing to give back to the communities but used them as a vessel to raise funds to actually rebuild specific local projects? And what if Governor Beshear would unveil this unique initiative at the Capital? And together, LexArts, Independence Bank, artists, students, and teachers did just that. Ame Sweetall, LexArts President and CEO, opened the creative spaces at ArtsPlace as the project art studio. The students, their families, teachers, professional artists, and the LexArts and Independence Bank teams all gathered to create, share and heal. This “wild idea” would become a reality. These three horses are currently displayed together downtown at Thoroughbred Park.

Bringing people together is essential for each organization, as both look for ways to break down barriers, build excellent ideas and come up with successful projects.

Dedicated to advocating for an array of artists, LexArts is a community-based nonprofit organization that provides opportunities for creativity to grow and thrive. “We believe in the access to art for all—and dispel the notion that art access and appreciation is just for a select few,” Sweetall stated.

Kentuckians may be familiar with events and exhibitions at the LexArts Gallery, which is now exclusively sponsored by Independence Bank for the next three years.
“Our partnership has been a perfect match,” Sweetall added with a smile. “The IB team shows up to everything we do. Art is often therapeutic—the Commonwealth Compassion project and this partnership with Independence Bank are great examples of how art can make a big difference in the face in the lives of so many.”

The Horse Mania auction at Keeneland is scheduled for December 2, 2022. The three Horses of Hope statues will be displayed to the crowd for additional donations. Monetary gifts are also being accepted now through the QR code provided below.

Boyer embraced her intuition. “We must listen when these wild ideas appear in our thoughts. Fundraising for the arts has been my greatest joy—and the Commonwealth Compassion: Horses of Hope project has accomplished healing and hope in ways we could have never imagined.”

Originally published in TOPS Lexington, October 2022