The Kentucky Derby shines a light on local artists whose work is inspired by the state
Once a year, the Kentucky Derby puts an international spotlight on the Bluegrass State. The increased attention impacts artists whose work is inspired by the very essence of Derby.
Jamie Corum has been around horses her whole life.
“I grew up in my younger days on a farm in southeast Kentucky,” Corum said. “And then my family moved to Louisville when I was 11 and got to start horseback riding, which was kind of my second passion.”
Her love for horses is clear in her art. Corum is an equine artist, and her work focuses on horses, particularly thoroughbreds.
“I have always been a horse-crazy person, like, I do not remember a time when I wasn't thinking about horses and wanting to have a horse and wanting to ride,” Corum said.
Her detailed drawings of horses show her years spent around the animals riding them and studying them.
That caught the attention of Woodford Reserve, who commissioned Corum to create their commemorative bourbon bottle for Derby in 2022 and 2023.
“It was absolutely the biggest thing I've ever done,” Corum said. “Just the way that bottles are advertised and connected to Derby and all the fanfare and the excitement and people collect them all over the world.”
Corum said she had never experienced the level of social media attention she did after her first Woodford Reserve bottle was released. Her bottle design this year celebrates 50 years since Secretariat's record-setting Kentucky Derby win in 1973.
Woodford Reserve isn’t the only company that commissions local artists to create work centered around the most exciting two minutes in sports.
The Kentucky Derby Festival annual poster is created by a local artist.
This year, Liesl Long Chaintreuil designed the poster. She took inspiration from her childhood growing up in Louisville and attending Kentucky Derby Festival events.
“With this one, I really wanted to focus a lot on the events that happen in the sky like the fireworks and the balloons and the Pegasus but also my love for painting people,” Long Chaintreuil said.
The poster features Louisville’s skyline, the pegasuses in various shades of blue coming together to create the background, as fireworks and hot air balloons drift across the sky.
In the foreground, people look at the spectacle unfolding before them.
For Long Chaintreuil, it was important to capture the community aspect of Derby and the way it brings Louisville together as a city and with the world.
“That was just a huge thing for me that really grounded the piece that these people come from all over and enjoy our state during this time of year especially,” Long Chaintreuil said. “So that was really big for me to incorporate that in my own style.”
Even the release of the poster helped Long Chaintreuil connect with people she’s known for years.
“A lot of people that I've known over the years have reached out and they're like, ‘we're so excited, we've followed you since you were really young’,” Long Chaintreuil said. “They truly have all encouraged me to keep going.”
The annual attention on Louisville gives artists a chance to elevate their work.
Via corporate partnerships, gallery shows and local artisans setting up near events, their work is presented amid the grandest spectacle in horse racing.
“Every gallery in Louisville is looking for an equine-themed show at Derby time,” Corum said.
Corum said those early gallery shows helped her hone her craft.
“Because the people are coming from everywhere, you've got trainers, owners, people flying in from everywhere, you get feedback from people who know, the horse, the racing industry, better than anyone,” Corum said.
Corum and Long Chaintreuil aim to capture the Derby in full in their work, so when international audiences see their pieces they understand what makes it special.
“The eyes of the world are on Kentucky at Derby time and this is our time to really show off and show the world what we have,” Corum said.