Life-size statue underway to honor Killington founder Preston Leete Smith
By Karen D. Lorentz
As the founder of Killington and a ski industry pioneer, Preston Leete Smith has been the recipient of many honors, from inductions into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame to numerous accolades — the Sherman Adams, NSAA Lifetime Achievement, and the New England Ski Museum’s Spirit of Alpine Skiing awards among them.
Now, Scott Gray, a dedicated Killington skier since 1966 and a vacation homeowner since 1986, is mobilizing an effort to honor Smith with a life-size bronze statue to be located in Killington.
Gray, who hails from New Jersey where he is head of Scott Gray Graphics, told the Mountain Times that the project came about because the idea occurred to him that “we are all here enjoying Killington because of Preston Smith. With the birth of Killington came the creation of an outdoor lifestyle that did not exist here before. It’s a lifestyle that we all continue to enjoy today. Preston Smith did not just create a ski area, he also helped create a town where businesses thrive and families make their livelihood, and for this I think he should be honored and remembered in this timeless manner,” Gray added.
The artist chosen for the project is the internationally recognized sculptor Carolyn Palmer. Her commissioned pieces include Pope Francis, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, the Wright Brothers, Edith Wharton, and the replacement statue of Lucille Ball, “not the scary Lucy statue,” Gray noted.
Carolyn D. Palmer
An Orange County, N.Y., native, Palmer had planned to go into medicine when she found her anatomy classes intriguing and changed her studies to art and science. A portrait painter after graduation from Nazareth College (Rochester, N.Y.) in 1983, Palmer told the Mountain Times that she found herself thinking, “It would be fun to bring the spirit of a person to life in a three-dimensional form.”
Her first sculpture was a seven-foot Thomas Jefferson, which she completed in 2003 — now displayed at the Jefferson Building in Syracuse, N.Y.
Among her latest projects was the life-size bronze figure of Lucille Ball for the Lucille Ball Memorial Park in Ball’s hometown of Celoron, N.Y. The sculpture, which was commissioned to replace one that the public did not like, was unveiled on Aug. 6, 2016, which would have been the actress’ 105th birthday. Its glowing approval brought Palmer worldwide coverage and recognition from the press and BBC and NPR broadcasting networks.
Viewers of “Madam Secretary” may have seen Palmer’s FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt sculptures on the show’s set thanks to CBS’ renting them for the series. There are also FDR and Eleanor statues at the entrance to the presidential library at Hyde Park, with other editions at the New York State Museum in Albany and at the Sarah Delano Roosevelt House at Hunter College in New York City. Her Pope Francis is soon to be displayed at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, she said.
Palmer creates both larger than life bronze busts and life-sized figures. She said that the process includes studying photographs, watching videos of a person if they exist, and researching the personality of the person. She also tries to look at a person from all angles. If it’s possible, she would like to get Pres Smith to sit for her for four hours, she said.
With research done, she makes a clay model and then takes a wax mold of that model. The next step is the lost-wax process wherein the mold goes to the foundry where the molten metal (in this case bronze) is poured into the mold. Once made, the wax is melted and drained. With the exact duplicate of her original model now in bronze, Palmer works on the metal piece, making any adjustments she deems necessary and adding her own patina to the metal. She creates the patina by oxidizing the metal, a process that involves heating it and brushing chemicals into it to change the colors. She said the process of making a bronze figure of Smith would take nine months from start to finish.
Committee and fundraising
Gray, who has extensive fundraising experience in New Jersey, said he estimates it will take about a year to raise the $275,000 for the sculpture and the $25,000 needed for transportation, the base, and plaque(s). He is currently talking with Killington officials about a possible location for the statue and assembling a project committee of “real skiers” who would like to honor Smith in this manner. In addition to fundraising, they will work on project details like the base and plaques, he said.
To date the committee consists of businessman and skier Allen Thomas, ski shop owner Bob Lang, son and lifelong Killington skier Catan Gray, friend and Killington skier Diane Dalton, and local businesspersons Tricia Carter of Ski Country Real Estate and Scott Giguere, owner/operator of Charity’s Restaurant.
Giguere noted his family’s history and how his (late) father Jack Giguere started Killington’s first nightclub and restaurant, later expanding with Charity’s. Scott Giguere said he is a second-generation businessman because Smith started the ski area. “Pres was a pioneer and because of him many of us have found satisfying and happy livestyles here,” Giguere said of the appropriateness of a statue that would exemplify a pioneering spirit.
Scott Smith, Pres Smith’s son who owns the Red Wagon Toy Company, a children’s clothing and toy store in Woodstock, is committee co-chair with Gray. He said Gray approached him “to help out with the project and I naturally agreed since it honors my dad.
“I think the choice of Carolyn Palmer is a great choice as she has done some prominent historical statues,” he added. Alluding to the fact that his father had never wanted a ski trail named after him, Smith said his father is aware of this project and didn’t seem to mind it, surmising that his appreciation for art might have influenced him to agree to be the subject of a bronze statue.
Reached at his home in Florida, Pres Smith, who turns 87 in February, said he was “quite surprised” but also feels “honored to have folks feel that way.”
Anyone who would like to join the project committee can contact Gray via email email@example.com with a subject line Statue Committee.
Those wishing to make a contribution can make checks payable to “The Preston Smith Bronze Project” and send them to: The Preston Smith Bronze Project, C/O Mr. Scott Smith, 41 Central Street, Woodstock, VT 05091.
Internationally recognized sculptor Carolyn Palmer at work on a statue of Pope Francis.