Community Canvas

Art Army recruits reluctant artists for collective paintings

We all have an inner artist, Darian Mosley believes.

Artist Darian Mosley at her Art Army booth during the First Friday Art Walk on the Ocala Downtown Square. Mosley organizes hands-on art activities at the monthly event. Everyone who stops by that night can create something to add to a mural that will be completed at the end of the evening. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]

That’s why she started Art Army Ocala almost two years ago. The organization offers a creative outlet for attendees of the First Friday Art Walk in downtown Ocala and the Tuscawilla Art Park Series in midtown.

“Take a breath. One stroke on the canvas; let’s see what happens.”

That was Mosley’s advice to one reluctant artist at a recent art walk. She handed the woman a paintbrush, some green and purple paint and pointed her to a large canvas stretched along the square.

“And then suddenly her one stroke turned into a symbol – a symbol of something she believes in, something she feels. She created something,” Mosley said, of the peace symbol the woman painted.

The peace symbol became part of a collective piece, created by others who added their touches that evening. A young girl added blue, pink and purple lines. A middle-aged man painted small green and blue waves.

“I’ve been involved in the arts in Ocala for quite some time,” Mosley said. “I did some independent film making; I’ve worked with a couple of different artist groups. I saw a need for something geared towards bringing people into discovering their own artist rather than bringing people in who already was established as an artist. To me, there’s still quite a need for that in our community.

“I love my artist friends, and I love seeing them create,” said Mosley. “But I want to see new artists; I want to see people blossoming into that.”

Art Army Ocala is part of the global Art Army movement started by Florida-based artist Perego in 1996.

Murals that people have worked on at previous First Friday Art Walks are shown at the Art Army booth. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]

“Our mission is to help people realize their inner artist,” Mosley said. “Every time someone says, ‘I can’t paint; I’m not an artist,’ I tell them, ‘You just haven’t discovered it yet. You just have to dig down inside and figure out what your art is and how to express it.’”

Although some completed art walk canvases have permanent homes, such as the one Mosley gave a friend to hang at her daycare center, displaying past projects draws people in to create again, she said.

“A few months later, they walk by and say, ‘Look, I painted that,’ and show it to their friends. And then their friends want to get a brush and start painting the next one,” she said.

The group also offers make-and-take art projects, which in the past included tie-dye butterflies, painted seashells and holiday ornaments.

But the main attraction is always the collective painting, Mosley said.

“That draws people in and gets people painting on my giant canvas,” she said. “And we’ve had some really cool stuff created by our community.”

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