Mini artwork makes big impact

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Posted July 13, 2020 | By Susan Smiley-Height | Photos courtesy City of Ocala

The unique “Small Spaces, Big Places” public art project is available for self-guided tours.

If you happen to be bopping around downtown Ocala and spy a bread-box size Reilly Arts Center, with the signature purple accents, you have found one of the installations of the new “Small Spaces, Big Places” public art project.

The City of Ocala, which continues to gain notoriety for its public art endeavors, such as the famed Horse Fever series, outdoor sculptures in Tuscawilla Park and numerous murals, recently unveiled the new addition.

The city’s Cultural Arts and Sciences Division commissioned artist Diane Cahal to create the works to bring awareness to 10 local not-for-profit organizations that have been featured as part of the City’s Levitt Amp Ocala Music Series. The project was funded in part by a grant from the Ocala Municipal Arts Commission through the State of the Arts license plate fees.

The artworks are miniature versions of the home-base of each organization, such as the Ocala Civic Theatre and the Appleton Museum of Art, which is complete with the lovely water feature in the entryway and a trio of elephants. One display is of the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Park on MLK Avenue.

The miniatures are displayed in “secret gardens” throughout the downtown area. They are anchored into the landscape and QR codes will help lead viewers on an interactive journey.

Cahal earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in photography with a minor in studio art from Sam Houston State University in Texas. She moved to Marion County more than 20 years ago. She opened Artistic LunaSea in 2001 and continues to attract international collectors with her Polaroid manipulations, abstract watercolor and acrylic paintings, dioramas and miniatures. She has been involved with a number of area arts organizations and currently is vice president of the Magnolia Art Xchange.

For the Marion Cultural Alliance’s popular Horse Fever projects, Cahal painted Sunburst and Ocala Luna. She said through that endeavor, “I experienced what public art brings to a community.”

“So, I wanted to give back, like a gift to the city,” she remarked. “I saw the Tiny Doors project in Atlanta and talked to a lady there but decided to not do that. I made a demo piece instead, that was gone in two days, and then the city approached me and said, ‘We can help.’”

She said the works are not to scale, are not models and are not replicas: “They are my artistic impression.”

She said the city made the stands the miniatures are mounted on and she worked with their horticulturists on how to incorporate them into the landscapes. She was working on the 10 pieces when the pandemic hit.

“A lot of my materials were coming from China and Germany, so that put a hold on it,” she explained. “It was nice, however, to have the extra time, because I put so much more detail in them.”

She said the works are coated in a heavy resin and she hopes they will remain viable for at least six or eight months.

For information about self-guided public art tours, visit Ocala.oncell.com. To learn more, visit www.ocalafl.org/culturalarts.