Fifth Rutland sculpture to honor ski and environmental pioneer

Andrea Mead Lawrence, a Rutland native and America’s only Olympic skier to win two gold medals in the same year, will be the subject of the fifth sculpture in a series highlighting local and regional history.

The sculpture, part of a series planned by the Carving Studio and Sculpture Center, MKF Properties, Vermont Quarries, and Green Mountain Power’s Rutland Blooms, will be underwritten by Casella Waste Management and will highlight Lawrence’s Olympic record and long environmental career. The team creating the monument will be led by Steve Shaheen, a Brooklyn-based sculptor.

“Andrea has been an inspiration to generations of Rutland County skiers, and environmentalists across the country,” Casella President John Casella Sr. said. “She began her Olympic career at the age of 15, won two gold medals at the 1952 Olympics at the age of 19, and became a leading environmentalist after her skiing career was over.

“She brought the same focus and passion to her environmental work as she brought to skiing,” Casella said.

Lawrence is widely considered one of America’s best winter athletes. Sports Illustrated ranks her as Vermont’s No. 1 athlete of all time, and according to her 2009 obituary in The New York Times, Olympic documentarian Bud Greenspan deemed her “the greatest Winter Olympian of all time.” The Times reported that accolade was based on her skiing and subsequent environmental career.

“She was the epitome of success,” GMP Vice President Steve Costello said. “She learned to ski at Pico Peak, which her parents owned, and within five years of her first official race, she was in her first Olympics at the age of 15. Four years later, she was a double-gold winner, a feat no American skier has matched since, but her greatest legacy is what she did after retiring from racing.”

Mead Lawrence became an environmental activist in the West, working for decades to preserve important environmental assets, and in 2003, she founded the Andrea Lawrence Institute for Mountains and Rivers, a nonprofit group focused on preserving the Sierra Nevada range.  In 2011, two years after her death, Congress passed and President Obama signed the Mount Andrea Lawrence Designation Act, renaming a 12,240 peak along the John Muir Trail “Mount Andrea Lawrence.”

CSSC Executive Director Carol Driscoll said the series had already exceeded her initial hopes, with expectations for five sculptures to be complete and installed by fall.  “When we started this effort barely a year ago, I really hoped we could complete one piece each year,” Driscoll said.  “The way the business community has rallied around the effort has been inspiring, and we’re so thankful for the support of John Casella and Vermont Quarries on this project.  We couldn’t do this without deep community support.”

The series also includes a planned sculpture highlighting Rutlanders’ and Vermonters’ role in the 54th Regiment, the first black regiment created in the Union Army after the Emancipation Proclamation; a piece honoring Revolutionary War hero Ann Story; “The Jungle Book” by Barre artist Sean Hunter Williams; and “Stone Legacy,” a tribute to the region’s stone industry, carved by a team lead by Shaheen last summer.  The Ann Story, 54th Regiment and Lawrence sculptures will be carved this summer and early fall.

Other possible subjects include Rutland residents and Civil War figures Edward and William Ripley, Rutland’s John Deere, Norman Rockwell, Ethan Allen, and Martin Henry Freeman, a Rutland native who became the nation’s first African-American college president in 1856. The sculptures will be carved from Danby White marble donated by Vermont Quarries.

The project began after Costello, who founded Rutland Blooms, saw a South Dakota public art project that includes bronze sculptures of all U.S. presidents.  The project inspired the idea of a series of sculptures highlighting local and regional history, carved from local marble.  The goal is to commission and install at least 10 sculptures by 2022.