Murals celebrate Ocala’s diverse history

Home » Arts & Entertainment
Posted May 7, 2021 | By Lisa McGinnes, Ocala Gazette

“Glimpses into the History of Marion County’s Black Culture” by Jordan Shapot.

Colorful murals honoring Ocala’s history give residents a new reason to take a walk in the park.

Recently installed at Scott Springs Park, located just a block behind busy Easy Street, the two-sided, 8-foot-tall panels line the paved walking trail.

“Glimpses into the History of Marion County’s Black Culture” by Jordan Shapot depicts four scenes of African Americans in everyday life: Railroad workers in wide-brimmed hats holding their hand tools; a group of families picnicking at Paradise Park near Silver Springs with brilliant fresh oranges and fruits; Black Seminole women, with their colorful, full-length skirts and scarves; and the timeless portrait of a young boy fishing from the banks of the Withlacoochee River.

The reverse side of the panels features “A Journey Though Marti City” by Maggie Weakley. Those scenes honor 19th-century Ocala residents of Cuban heritage that established the city. The scenes include workers in the green tobacco fields; men and women working in a cigar factory while the lector reads aloud from a newspaper; a street scene taken from Marti City, which was located just west of downtown Ocala; and the gathering of residents when Cuban activist Jose Marti came to town.

“Art is a perfect vessel to tell a story and depict historical moments in time,” said Ashley Dobbs, Ocala spokeswoman. “Being able to showcase these panels in a natural setting, while providing exposure to our city’s history through an expressive medium allows for people of all ages to experience the power of art.”

“A Journey Though Marti City” by Maggie Weakley. [Submitted].

The artists, both local residents, devoted a lot of time to research and studying historic photographs.

“I really love art projects when I’m required to do research and some digging around,” Shapot said. “It makes me feel much more connected to the subject matter and I think the artwork often turns out to be more heartfelt. I am retelling their stories – it’s such a vibrant culture.”

Weakley, whose parents are from Cuba, enjoyed the opportunity to preserve local history with ties to her own heritage.

“It was so interesting,” she said. “I read so much. I pulled photographs from the time period. Then I thought, what were the four most important things to say to the community to show the story?”

The park is a perfect location for this artwork, Weakley said.

“It’s so pretty,” she noted. “The trails are wonderful and they have all these really cool walkways. There’s water, so you have all these elements. It’s funny, because it’s in the middle of all this shopping. It’s like this little gem in the middle of the chaos. It’s unexpected.”

Scott Springs Park is a 21.68-acre City of Ocala park located at 2825 SW 24th Avenue.

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