Mike Zeak welds at Zeak Technique on Northeast 16th Avenue. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]
Local fabricator creates unique sculptures
A very recognizable piece recently left Mike Zeak’s workshop to go back to its home. The vintage art deco Brick City Center for the Arts neon sign, which he spent the past couple months restoring, was reinstalled at the Marion Cultural Alliance gallery on Southwest Broadway Street on Thursday.
But you’ve likely seen the metal fabricator’s artwork somewhere in the community.
He’s been working with metal for 45 years, the last nine at his Zeak Technique shop.
One of Zeak’s favorite pieces is “Childhood Memories,” which is currently part of the Appleton Museum of Art’s Sculpture Walk. It spent a year at Tuscawilla Art Park after Zeak created it for the 2013 Ocala Outdoor Sculpture Competition.
The piece is a favorite with the public, too. Not only do the bright, primary colors and recognizable shapes of oversized kids’ blocks draw them in, this sculpture is meant to be touched.
“It’s interactive. People see it, they touch it, they feel it,” Zeak said.
The blocks spin to spell out four words: Fun art for all.
Downtown, at Citizens’ Circle, another of Zeak’s best-known works, “Metallic Fluttering,” is an eye catcher. Originally displayed at the Discovery Center, the enormous metal butterfly is adorned with cutouts of colors that match the blue, orange, green and maroon in the City of Ocala’s logo.
While Zeak has created multiple sculptures, he considers himself a metal fabricator that dabbles in art.
“There are fewer artistic jobs than bill-paying jobs,” he said, adding that he enjoys the “non-creative” jobs he completes day in and day out.
He said his work requires problem-solving skills and attention to detail. But he admits he can go from fabricating equipment for Signature Brands to designing a commissioned artwork with ease.
In fact, Zeak’s artistic work is all around the downtown area.
The big globe in front of the Discovery Center is his work, as are the entrance gates to the Ocala Skate Park around the corner on Northeast Ninth Street.
If you’ve visited Bank Street Patio Bar in downtown, you’ve probably noticed the artistic vault door and the gleaming copper penny waterfall feature, both created by Zeak in his workshop.
He also does smaller pieces for customers, like the spinning copper on limestone sculpture he created to memorialize a family’s pets lost in a house fire.
He likes working with just an idea instead of formal plans. Those are the kind of projects he likes best, he said, when the client leaves it in his hands.
“There’s no plans, no blueprints, you just make it,” Zeak said with a grin. “I’m not afraid of challenges. My favorite customer is the one who walks in the door and says, ‘I’ve got this really crazy idea’ because I know it’s either something that’s really hard or really unique.”