Artists in Ocala Love To Horse Around

By Hollie Deese on April 28, 2011 at 11:48 am EST

PHOTO CREDIT: Sarah B. Gilliam

Take a stroll around downtown, and you might get the idea that horses play an important part of Ocala culture. With 85 percent of the state’s horse farms located in Marion County, they mean big business, but they also bring a sense of serenity, calmness and beauty to the area.

The horse statues that dot the area are part of the traveling Horse Fever project, Ocala’s first foray into public art. Designs are painted on an original horse form created by artist Mark Hershberger, and the project is an enjoyable homage to the equine as it travels from venue to venue, highlighting the vibrant and emerging art scene in Ocala.

Every April, the equine adoration continues with the Festival of the Horse. The area’s finest animals and their riders compete in dressage, cross-country and show jumping events. Kids will surely enjoy the fun Jack Russell races, while adults check out the polo and polocrosse matches.

Other annual horse-themed events include the Florida Equestrian Classic and the Professional Pro Rodeo.

Still, you don’t have to totally immerse yourself in horse culture and equine art to have fun in Ocala. A variety of galleries and museums provide a well-rounded arts experience. The Appleton Museum of Art has permanent collections representing a variety of cultures, including pre-Colombian pieces – the oldest work on display dates to 2000 B.C.

For art lovers who are more hands on, the Artist Hub of Ocala is a great meeting place with classes for budding Picassos of all ages, from preschool to seniors. Parents and children can take a clay class together or find their own callings in acrylics and watercolors.

Performing arts have a place in the city, too. The Ocala Civic Theatre attracts an audience of 44,000 each year to its profession theater drama and musical performances, and it's also where the Marion Performing Ballet plié and piqué across the stage during classics such as Cinderella and The Nutcracker.

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