- Associated Press - Sunday, May 22, 2016

KEARNEY, Neb. (AP) - Artists Del and Martha Pettigrew of Kearney have combined horse racing and art for their careers.

The Pettigrews sculpt animals and wildlife in their studio and home in Kearney, often combining their love of art and horse racing, the Kearney Hub (https://bit.ly/1NAgZVL ) reports. Their largest horse sculpture is 10 feet tall and stands in Irving, Texas.

The Pettigrews married 38 years ago when Del was a farmer and Martha was working as an illustrator for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln State Museum. She quit after five years to help Del on the farm near Denton.

“Farming is full-time work,” Martha said. “So I said goodbye to the illustration job.”

They bought their first thoroughbred horse in 1979, years after Del had purchased his first horse at the age of 14 because he knew he wanted to race horses.

When they were no longer able to support themselves on farming and racing, they turned to an alternate source of income.

“We became professional artists,” Del said. “I said, ‘We’re going to be artists because we’re starting at the bottom and have no place to go but up.’”

The Pettigrews have been artists for 25 years. They work seven days a week on their art.

On any given day, the Pettigrews are either sculpting pieces in their in-home workshop, showing their work at weekend art shows or shipping their art to cities across the country.

“We do a lot of city loan programs. We’re in six or seven where cities rent pieces from different artists, and they’ll have as many as 50 artists participate,” Martha said. “They keep them for a year and ship them to another city.”

This past week, Del and Martha have been preparing to move a 200-pound bronze moose sculpture to a gallery in Florida. At the same time, the couple is also readying other art pieces to show at a gallery in Santa Fe.

“We have a gallery there, and we have to bring new pieces in all of the time,” Martha said.

Even with their busy schedule, Del and Martha have found time to continue racing and breeding horses.

They run their horse, Outsider Art, in races across the country. The horse is kept and trained in Kentucky, and Del said, it is a horse of national promise.

“If you wanna raise racehorses,” Martha said, “you gotta raise them in Kentucky.”

Outsider Art is 2 years old and has made only five starts in her career. However, these five starts have been enough to show that she has a bright future.

“She won her first start in Saratoga; that’s where all the big shots want to win a race,” Martha explained. “When she won her first-ever start, that’s what told us she was going to be a nice horse.”

“To have a horse even race in Saratoga is a great honor. … Saratoga is very significant. It’s the Carnegie Hall of racing,” Del added. “You’re lucky if you get a horse good enough to run there. Even luckier if you get a horse that can actually win there.”

Del said horse racing is a “fowl or feather business.”

“You have long periods of time where you don’t have any winners,” he said. “If you don’t have proven racehorses, you can’t sell the stock for very much money. Right now, we’ve got two babies … we’re trying to sell.”

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Information from: Kearney Hub, https://www.kearneyhub.com/

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