Horse Fever 20/20 invites artists to apply


“Horse O’Plenty” by artist Elsie Ruiz is shown at the Ocala Civic Theate on East Silver Springs Boulevard in Ocala, Fla. on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. Tne horse is one of the original Horse Fever horses. It was purchased by Leon J. Schmehl and loaned to the Ocala Civic Theatre so the public could “remember and enjoy” the 2001-2002 Horse Fever Project. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2020.

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Posted August 3, 2020 | By Lisa McGinnes, Staff Writer

“Horse O’Plenty” by artist Elsie Ruiz is shown at the Ocala Civic Theate on East Silver Springs Boulevard in Ocala. The horse is one of the original Horse Fever horses. It was purchased by Leon J. Schmehl and loaned to the Ocala Civic Theatre so the public could “remember and enjoy” the 2001-2002 Horse Fever Project.

“Do we have room for a horse in the house?” was one of artist Maggie Weakley’s first thoughts when she heard Horse Fever is making a comeback in Ocala. Artist Margaret Watts didn’t need to think about it; she already knows she can fit a life-size horse statue in her home studio, just like last time. Both artists participated in Marion Cultural Alliance’s (MCA) first public art project 20 years ago and are hoping to be selected for the new reboot, HF 20/20.

Artists across the region are busy thinking “outside the canvas” with concepts and colors that can bring a 6-foot-tall fiberglass horse to life. MCA invites artists to submit up to three designs for consideration by a jury panel of regional art professionals, who will select artist designs to be placed in a portfolio and matched with patrons who purchase the 20 statues in the new herd. Design submissions are due by August 14th.

“We can’t wait to see all of our old and new artists submitting,” said Laurie Zink, who is reprising her role as Horse Fever chair. And the artists are just as enthusiastic.

“I’m super excited,” Weakley said. “I have a couple ideas but I haven’t cemented anything down. There’s one I really like that’s kind of relevant right now. I’m thinking of doing something with the children of the world. I want to have something relevant to represent 2020.”

Watts is also deciding what to submit.

“I’m working on the designs right now,” she said. “I’ve gone through three different concepts so I’m still in the creation stage. But more than likely it will be toward a landscape because I’m a landscape painter.”

Diane Cahal, an Ocala artist who worked on both the original and the 10th anniversary Horse Fever projects, said she is currently brainstorming ideas.

“I am most definitely submitting a design. I’m thoroughly excited about the return of the highly successful project. It was an honor to participate in the original herd and the 10th anniversary herd. I would love to bring one more horse to life and earn the hat trick!” 

While the original Horse Fever was a catalyst for public art and the growth of the vibrant arts scene Ocala enjoys today, more artists mean more competition for the Horse Capital of the World’s highest-profile public art exhibit.   

“We have an incredible amount of talent right now,” said Weakley, who has been the administrative coordinator for Fine Arts for Ocala (FAFO) since 2014. “It’s definitely going to be a lot more competitive than it was 20 years ago…artists can start becoming more competitive with each other which also elevates art. When you have competition then artists can say, ‘OK, I’ve got to bring my A game here.’”

Zink said the jury intends to choose the artists by the end of August and they will be introduced to the public at the selected artists reception on October 1st. This time, patrons purchasing a horse can either select a design from the portfolio or request to be matched with a certain artist, Zink explained, so they won’t have to bid at auction and hope they win their preferred design.

“Don’t miss out this time,” Zink advised. “For those of you who never got to have a horse and always wished you’d be able to have one, this is your chance. You’ll be able to have your selection of the art you want. These horses are not going to auction; they’re being purchased straight up so as a patron you get to avoid some of the difficulties of getting one in the past.”

Artists: Want to apply? Visit www.mcaocala.org/calls-to-artists/ for details. Design submissions must be received at the Brick City Center for the Arts no later than 5pm on Friday, August 14th.

Art patrons: Want to purchase a Horse Fever work of art? Call Marion Cultural Alliance at (352) 369-1500 for more information.