Updated: Feb 24, 2020
HINDMAN]—The creation and installation of a public sculpture in downtown Hindman took place this week, just a block from Hindman Post Office. The artwork stands as a memorial to a way of communicating which is quickly vanishing in the “instant age” of emails and automobiles. Our youngest generations may never understand the anticipation and excitement that a single piece of mail could bring to families long ago. Especially in remote areas, mail delivery could be a person’s only communication with the outside world. Delivery could also be a treacherous endeavor, but one that a few brave men dedicated themselves to.
The work is the first of 3 public sculptures that will be installed in Knott County in the coming months, which were funded by the National Endowment for the Arts’ Our Town Award to the Appalachian Artisan Center(AAC). The funded “SPARK” Project has re-established blacksmithing in Knott by funding a Master Blacksmith as well as public works that speak to the history of Blacksmithing in our region.
The work is inspired by the life of Irvine Pratt, one of the last horseback mail carriers, who was a Knott-Countian and also a blacksmith/farrier that made horseshoes for his companion horse, Bill. Mr. Pratt delivered mail on horseback on dirt roads from Pine Top to Holly Bush three days a week up late into the 1970s. He was 77 years old when he finally retired after falling from his horse and becoming injured. Irvine Pratt gained national acclaim in the 1970s when he was featured in a series of short videos that aired on Sesame Street. His story was also reported in National Geographic Magazine around the same time.
At a community meeting last January, 60 Knott County residents gathered to review the proposed model for the project, including Irvine Pratt’s granddaughters, who still live in the area. Although the original location identified for the work fell through, the work was well-received and permission for the sculpture in its current location in downtown Hindman was granted by KY Transportation Cabinet – Right of Way Division. An informational plaque will also be installed next to the sculpture, giving historical context.
Designed by former HCTC Kentucky School of Craft(KSOC) Fine Art Director, Michael Flynn, the work is a representation of a horse that contains aesthetic elements drawn from traditional blue domed USPS mailboxes. It stands over 10 foot high and has already been attracting the attention of passers-by. Terry Ratliff, a local multimedia artist, was also a collaborator on the project. The two also had assistance from ACC’s Master Blacksmith Dan Estep and a host of other community members.
Michael Flynn currently teaches art foundations at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). He is a sculptor with a M.F.A in Visual Art from Loyola University. Previously, he and his wife lived in Hindman for 4 years while he taught art courses in a variety of media at KSOC and Directed the Associate of Fine Arts Program for HCTC.
National Endowment for the Arts’ Our Town Projects fund Arts Engagement, Cultural Planning, and Design Projects in an effort to support Creative Placemaking. For more information on NEA projects, go to www.arts.gov.
For more information about the Appalachian Artisan Center or the SPARK Project, write them a good old-fashioned letter: PO Box 833, Hindman, KY 41822. Or for the less nostalgic, visit on the web at www.artisancenter.net.