Work begins on Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden, trailhead for Legacy Trail

A memorial for the most successful jockey of all time is officially under construction in Lexington’s East End neighborhood. Today, Mayor Jim Gray joined community leaders, representatives from Blue Grass Community Foundation and state officials in breaking ground at the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden.

“This park, which was once the site of Isaac Murphy’s home, will honor the contributions of African-Americans in the horse racing industry,” Gray said. “The garden will serve as a beautiful gathering place, a showcase of public art and a starting point for Lexington’s marquee trail.”

Located at the intersection of Third Street and Midland Avenue, the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden is a trailhead for the Legacy Trail. The trail is a legacy project of the 2010 World Equestrian Games, attracting hundreds of visitors each year. Once completed, the 10-mile walking and biking trail will connect the East End with the Kentucky Horse Park, where Isaac Murphy is buried.

David Cozart, President of the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden Board of Directors, said residents, supporters and volunteers have been anticipating today’s groundbreaking for several years.

“Throughout this project, we have learned that Isaac Burns Murphy used his skill to connect diverse people to one another,” Cozart said. “With the art garden, he and other African-American pioneers in the equine industry will not only be honored, but Isaac will in many ways continue to be a connector of people here in Lexington, and even around the world.”

Original artwork selected by the community will be prominently featured in the park. Metal panels designed by Lexington artist LaVon Williams and a sculpture designed by Neal and Tiffany Bociek of California were selected following a nationwide search. Storyboards depicting the lives of Murphy and other African-American horsemen will complement the artwork.

Blue Grass Community Foundation is facilitating ongoing fundraising efforts for the garden. “While we are pleased that the park and trailhead are fully funded, there are still significant underwriting opportunities that will help activate the space and fill it with beautiful and inspiring artwork. Individuals, businesses and organizations interested in participating should contact the Community Foundation,” said Lisa Adkins, President and CEO of Blue Grass Community Foundation.

The park will also include seats made of native stone, a sunken amphitheater, bike racks and native plants. Visitors will even be able to see the foundation of Isaac Murphy’s house.

The Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden started as a project of the 2006-2007 class of Leadership Lexington, a leadership development program sponsored by Commerce Lexington.

“The Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden illustrates public-private collaboration at its best. I’m encouraged these efforts will yield an appreciable and sustainable community benefit, to the East End and to greater Lexington,” said First District Councilmember Chris Ford.

A mix of federal, state, local and philanthropic dollars is funding the $700,000 project. Construction is expected to be complete by November.

“The Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden will pay tribute to one of Kentucky’s greatest athletes. The horseracing industry is one of the state’s most valuable assets and Isaac Murphy played a large part in creating that legacy,” said Don Pasley, commissioner of the Department of Rural and Municipal Aid in the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. “The Transportation Cabinet is pleased to contribute to this honor bestowed on this elite athlete and pioneer, the city of Lexington and the state as a whole.”

Design is underway of the final phase of the Legacy Trail, which will connect the Isaac Murphy trailhead to the existing trail at the Northside YMCA. Construction of this two-mile section of the trail will begin in 2015.

Isaac Burns Murphy (1861-1896) was the first jockey elected to the National Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame. Murphy was the first jockey to win the Kentucky Derby three times (1884 – Buchanan; 1890 – Riley; and 1891 – Kingman). He won more than a third of his mounts and is considered by many to be the greatest American jockey of all time.

To learn more about the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden, visit