Three public art installations help create a dynamic sensorial experience at the Mary Sue Rich Community Center at Reed Place.
Enlivening, thought-provoking, functional, immersive and innovative are words you could use to describe three public art installations at the newly opened Mary Sue Rich Community Center at Reed Place.
Each work has a distinct and compelling creative objective, enhancing the multipurpose venue with atmospheric and dynamic visuals, and imaginative sensory encounters.
The suspension piece, “Renewal,” uplifts the viewer with the aerial majesty of Virginia Kistler (featured in January 2022 in the “Ocala Gazette”). Approximately 17-feet tall by 10-feet wide, the artwork hangs from the ceiling in the atrium between the first and second floors. Kistler said she constructed the installation with Varia (formable resin panels) and painted stainless steel spheres to convey a moving swirl of color and movement. Its appearance changes as the viewer observes it from different vantage points while moving through the space.
“The inspiration for my sculpture comes from the movement of people engaging in athletic activity and everyday life and derives inspiration from motion-captured imaging and chrono-photography,” Kistler explained.
“‘Renewal’ is suggestive of movement ‘frozen’ in time,” she added, “and is meant to convey action and energy, without suggesting a specific activity or movement. It’s meant to invoke a sense of life, activity and new beginnings, while also connecting the piece to the site’s purpose and unique history.”
About the center’s history: Three decades ago, the Royal Oak charcoal plant occupied the property at 1812 NW 21st Ave. In 1996, a task force led by resident Ruth Ford Reed investigated the plant’s permitting and alleged infractions. Residents reported pollution, respiratory illnesses and other health and safety problems.
Reed formed the Neighborhood Citizens of Northwest Ocala, an organization she still oversees as president today. The site of the former plant, named Reed Place in her honor, surrounds the new Mary Sue Rich Community Center. Rich, an Ocala native and longtime resident of West Ocala, was an Ocala City Councilwoman for 24 years. She retired in 2019.
“I believe that artwork should be accessible to all people,” Kistler told the “Gazette” when she was contracted to create the installation.
“By placing artwork in a public space, my work can be seen and appreciated by a larger cross-section of society. People of all backgrounds and those who may not typically visit galleries or art museums deserve to be exposed to quality artwork. Visual art enriches lives and exposure is important,” she said.
The interactive public art piece on the exterior of the building, “Elements -sea-,” involved a collaboration between international artists Aaron Sherwood and Kiori Kawai, with the assistance of local artist and fabricator Mike Zeak and Florida artist Cosby Hayes. This piece introduces the participant to the interaction of touch, sound and light while providing an aesthetically pleasing immersive experience.
“Elements -sea-“ features 105 spheres that generate sound and light when touched. The artists fabricated the spheres using acrylic globes covered with silicone, each containing an LED light and a speaker. When a viewer touches a sphere, it generates a unique sound and lights up. Custom-fabricated aluminum and a combination of powder-coating and spray paint compose the mechanical casing.
Local residents might already be familiar with Hayes’ work. He contributed his evocative talents to the “Quilted Memories” mural at the E.D. Croskey Recreation Center. Ocala-based Zeak has worked on several local public art projects, including the mixed media mural on the west exterior wall of the Marion Cultural Alliance, “Reflections through Flora,” by Ernesto Maranje, (Zeak created the fabrications and Suzanne Shuffitt added the horticultural elements.).
Ocala-based artist Chance Miller prepared the gym’s Tectum Panel. Miller, a participant in the annual Student and Emerging Artist Competition hosted by the city of Ocala and the Magnolia Art Xchange (MAX), arranged the panels to create an interplay of colors while providing the all-too-important function of sound absorption in the double gymnasium.
The recently premiered exhibit “Revolutionized Textile & Fiber: The Art of Ingrid Humphrey” will be on display at the center through May 25. A native of Florida, Ingrid Taylor-Humphrey is the artist and creator of The Original Sister Dolls Collection, a representation of the sisterhood of women of color worldwide and inspired by African and African American culture.
The 41,750-square-foot, two-story center was constructed to serve “as the hub of the community,” according to the city’s website. The facility includes designated indoor spaces for senior, youth and family programs; a 400-seat banquet/ event space that can be divided into three rooms; and a kitchen to serve seniors and children after school. Catering and public cooking options have also been planned.
The center’s health and wellness facilities include an open fitness area; indoor walking track; two multi-purpose studios with an operable partition for larger groups; a mind, body and dance studio; two full basketball courts; a gymnasium with bleachers; indoor playground with connection to one of the courts, which will be used for camps; senior studio and multipurpose room; and library and media center. There are also huddle rooms for tutoring and health advice.
Future plans include adding an outdoor playground, event lawn and community garden.
“It was a great honor to bring greetings and speak words of affirmation for two of Ocala’s greats: Mary Sue Rich and Ruth Reed,” Florida State Rep. Yvonne Hinson posted on her Facebook page after speaking at the recent ribbon cutting for the center. “The legacy they have inspired here will live on in perpetuity for many generations.”
The Mary Sue Rich Community Center at Reed Place, located at 1821 NW 21st Ave., Ocala, is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Learn more at bit.ly/3YfBdsS
For more information about public art in Ocala, email email@example.com or visit ocalafl.org/culturalarts.