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 Systems and will highlight Lawrence’s Olympic record and long environmental career.
“Andrea has been an inspiration to generations of Rutland County skiers, and environmentalists across the country,” Casella Chairman and CEO John Casella 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.”
Steve Shaheen, a Brooklyn-based sculptor who will be leading a team to create the monument, says he is inspired by Lawrence’s quote following her gold-medal runs in 1952, which will also be inscribed on the marble: “There are few times in our lives where we become the thing we are doing.”
“I see an exact correlation between athletics and artistry,” says Shaheen, “when you hit that Zen moment where everything else disappears, and the line between creator and creation becomes indistinguishable.”
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 profound community support.”
Quentin Andrea Lawrence, Andrea Mead Lawrence’s daughter, said the sculpture was an honor her mother would be proud of. “She often called herself ‘A good Vermont Yankee,’ remaining devoted to Rutland and the Green Mountains of her childhood,” she said. “Although she fell in love with the open spaces of the American West, she always attributed her passion for environmental justice to the joys of growing up playing on Pico Peak, as well as the streams and forests of her childhood home. We as a family are very happy to see that she will be remembered in this honorable tribute and hope that her memory will inspire many generations to come.”
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.