Public art piece honors the history of Grove City

By Dedra Cordle
Staff Writer

Messenger photo by Dedra Cordle
The Grove City community came out to the new Beulah Park Living development on Sept. 17 for the dedication of the public art installation “And They’re Off.” Designed and created by Upper Arlington resident Craig W. Murdick (pictured here), the 12,000-pound Corten steel structure memorializes the history of the former Beulah Park racetrack which was in operation from 1923-2014.

Whenever Dominic Massenelli would drive through the gates to access the Beulah Park racetrack, a buzzing sensation would move throughout his body.

He couldn’t wait to see which horses would be racing that day, eavesdrop on the bettors as they debated odds, jostle with the heavy crowd for a great seat in the stands, and wait for the moment the announcers called out “And They’re Off.”

The Grove City resident said being a part of that action, even if he has no money on the line, always gave him goosebumps, even as the crowds dwindled throughout the years.

“You would go there for the experience, to soak up the atmosphere that occurred before, during and after a race,” Massenelli said.

He could not recall just how many times he visited the racetrack in his youth and throughout his adult years, but he said each trip created a new memory.

Like so many throughout the community, Massenelli was saddened when he learned that the racetrack, which was Ohio’s first thoroughbred racetrack and premier event center, was permanently closing in 2014.

“It was a bit heartbreaking that something with so much history, something that meant so much to so many people in the city, was going to leave,” he said. “But I guess that’s life. Times change, things move out, things move in, and people move on.”

Several years later, investors purchased the 212-acre property in order to develop a new residential and commercial space that would connect with the downtown area. Massenelli and his wife, Cindy were intrigued by the news but worried the history of the land and all of the memories created would be forgotten.

That was not to be.

Three years ago, just as the development plans were getting underway, Beulah Park Living developer Pat Kelley, of Falco, Smith and Kelley, Will Bunstine, and the Williams family announced they were commissioning a public art installation to be placed in the 32-acre park located within the development.

“We had initially envisioned a typical statute of two horses grazing on the grass, but clearly that did not come to fruition,” said Kelley.

Instead, the end result was a massive, 12,000-pound Corten steel sculpture that has six horses and their jockeys bursting out of the starting gate. One gate is empty though the silhouette of the scratched horse and the assistant leading it back to the stable can be seen in the background.

Designed and created by artist and architect Craig W. Murdick, the sculpture aims to memorialize the history of the racetrack, the dedication of the trainers, and the beauty and power of the horses.

“It was designed to capture movement, the excitement of the moment when the announcers call out “And They’re Off” and the frenzied rush when the horses leap out of the gate,” said Murdick, a resident of Upper Arlington.

Like the initial design of the commemorative sculpture, Murdick was initially not the first artist the Beulah Park Living developers had in mind.

“We have worked with Craig for more than a decade (Murdick’s architectural firm, Murdick Creative, designed the Beulah Place apartments and the Townhomes on Beulah Park) on various construction projects but we did not know he had this kind of talent,” said Kelley.

“He has designed a wonderful piece of art that has perfectly encapsulated the history of this site and the promise of what it can hold.”

It took Murdick close to three years to complete the “And They’re Off” sculpture – his first official piece of public art. It includes an anchoring wall for the heavy steel of the catapulting horses, sand that was preserved from the racetrack, and strategically placed cutout designs and lighting fixtures so that it casts shadows of movement depending on the time of day.

Cindy Massenelli said she and her husband – who live on the outskirts of the new development – have been watching the process of this art installation for months and are “immensely pleased” with the results.

“We love coming out here to see this sculpture because it is always changing,” she said. “It is just a beautiful design, a beautiful way to honor the history of this site and the impact it has made on this community.”

“And They’re Off” had its public dedication on Sept. 17 in the new Beulah Park Living development. It is located near the intersection of the Columbus Street extension and Beulah Park Way.

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