Rearing up for raid

Young artist’s vision graces street corner

Michelle Monroe

By Michelle Monroe

Executive Editor

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ST. ALBANS — A new sculpture inspired by the St. Albans Raid was installed on the corner of Congress and Messenger streets Sunday afternoon.

Sculptor Louisa Ulrich-Verderber, 17, said, “The image popped into my head as I was reading about the raid.”

The design changed somewhat but the artist has successfully completed the project in time for the commemoration of the raid taking place from Thursday through Sunday.

“I envisioned it to be a facing north with a rider facing south and firing a pistol.” In the end, she kept it to just the horse.

This is Ulrich-Verderber’s fortieth sculpture. The first piece she worked on was a stegosaurus located in front of the dental office of her parents, Lynda Ulrich and Chuck Verderber, on Congress Street. “I just did the head for that one,” she said.

Her older sister had intended to help their mother with the dinosaur, but was in a cast. Louisa, then 12, stepped in to help. “I just said, ‘Here, you can run a torch,'” said Lynda Ulrich.

Since then Ulrich-Verderber has made numerous sculptures for charity auctions, raising more than $10,000 for local groups. She also made a 250th anniversary sculpture for her hometown of Fairfield last summer.

Ulrich-Verderber was originally concerned about installing the horse too close to the stegosaurus, but was fine with it once the horse was in place. “They’re far enough apart, it doesn’t look like you stuck a horse in Jurassic Park,” she said.

The horse, which took about 25 hours to make, is sculpted from metal pieces welded together. The mane, portions of the tail, and much of the body were made from flat pieces that Ulrich-Verderber fabricated with a plasma saw. Several of those pieces have stars and stripes cut into them.

The eyes of the horse were made from doorknobs from Bellows Free Academy. When the school had to replace the doorknobs with handicapped accessible bars, they kept the knobs, which a janitor gave to Ulrich-Verderber.

Other parts of the sculpture include rakes, gutter cleaners and wrenches. A long piece of chain several inches wide runs along the front of the horse’s neck. “That’s probably my favorite part,” said Ulrich-Verderber. “It makes it look more fluid.”

Many of the pieces in the horse were purchased when the Foundry Machine Shop closed last year, said Ulrich.

The head and front hooves move in the wind. “I’ve done smaller things that move, but not with that much fluidity,” said Ulrich-Verderber.

Asked what was the most challenging part to make, Ulrich-Verderber spoke of the neck section with the spring for the head. “I was welding above my head and a big goblet of molten metal fell down on my back,” she said.

The horse comes apart into three pieces – the main body, the neck and the head. Ulrich-Verderber designed metal tongues on both the neck and head that fit into the other pieces. Setting it into place required the use of a boom truck. Once they were happy with the positioning of the piece, a trench was dug to bury the base of the sculpture.

Eventually, they will build a short fence around the horse resembling a paddock, said Ulrich.

Ulrich said she was not worried about people attempting to climb the horse, in part because they haven’t any problems with the stegosaurus. “They’re incredibly sharp and rusty… There’s not one place you can place your hand without going to the hospital,” she said.

While she plans to pursue a career in science or medicine, Ulrich-Verderber will continue to sculpt as a hobby, she said.

She currently has a workshop at her parents’ home, with pieces of metal sorted by size. While she works, she listens to recordings of Harry Potter novels. “I’ve tried other music,” she said. “It just doesn’t feel right.”

Pictures of her previous work can be seen online (www.beaspark.com).