Public art appreciation is looking up in Northwest Ocala


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Posted January 28, 2022 | By Julie Garisto

The city of Ocala has approved a $60K ceiling-suspended installation for the new Mary Sue Rich Community Center at Reed Place.

[Image submitted]

Northwest Ocala residents are looking forward to the new Mary Sue Rich Community Center at Reed Place, where they will be able to gaze up at a contemporary art installation.

A ceiling-suspended sculpture, created by artist Virginia Kistler, will greet visitors at the 41,750-square-foot, two-story community center, scheduled to open in December (barring any unforeseen delays).

According to the Ohio-based artist, the work is intentionally abstract and open to interpretation. However, the color and swirl of the piece should appeal to viewers of all ages.

The inspiration comes from the movement of people engaging in athletic activity and everyday life, Kistler said.

“The piece is inspired by motion capture imaging, or chronophotography. Suggestive of movement ‘frozen’ in time, the sculpture is meant to convey action and energy, without suggesting a specific activity or movement,” she said.

Kistler’s piece will dangle from the ceiling of the entrance atrium, constructed with what the city describes as “hanging systems.” The building’s architect will approve the point of attachment and length of materials. The work’s materials include mirrored stainless steel spheres and Varia (⅛-inch UV-resistant resin sheeting).

Three decades ago, the Royal Oak charcoal plant occupied the property at 1812 NW 21st Ave. In 1996, a task force led by resident Ruth Ford Reed investigated the plant’s permitting and alleged infractions. Residents reported pollution, respiratory illnesses and other health and safety problems.

Reed formed the Neighborhood Citizens of Northwest Ocala, an organization she still oversees as president today. The site of the former plant, named Reed Place in her honor, surrounds the new Mary Sue Rich Community Center at Reed Place. Rich, an Ocala native and longtime resident of West Ocala, was an Ocala City Councilwoman for 24 years. She retired in 2019.

Resourcefulness and a vision for the future seem to reflect in all aspects of the building’s construction. Working across disciplines, primarily in sculpture and photography, artist Kistler sources an uncanny assemblage of materials. Her past works have included laser-cut rubber, computer numerical control router-cut plastic, stainless steel, 3D-printed plastic and ceramics.

A graduate of Ohio State University, Kistler earned her MFA from the Columbus College of Art and Design. Her work has been exhibited nationally, commissioned by the Lincoln Motor Company, Dayton Metro Library and Cleveland State University (CSU) to create permanent works of sculpture.

In her works, science, history, culture and the abstract converge. For CSU, she created a sculpture inspired by the double helix, the molecular shape of a double-stranded DNA molecule. The layering effect of the piece suggests the imaging techniques used to study molecular structures.

She also created a site-specific work for Dayton Metro Library. The suspended sculpture, commissioned by the library, answered a call for art inspired by two exhibits from the Dayton Art Institute’s permanent collection. The stunning arrangement of radial domes, textured like embroidery, reflects Kistler’s reimagining of the Kuosi Society Costume from the Bamileke people of Cameroon and a relief fragment from Persepolis. She chose textiles from the two cultures and used their patterns as inspiration.

Coordinated through City of Ocala Project Manager Leslie Nottingham and the city’s recreation and parks department, the Ocala installation won approval by the City Council on Jan. 18. The city will pay Kistler/Kistler Studio LLC $60,000 to complete the installation.

The Mary Sue Rich Community Center at Reed Place will feature two indoor basketball courts, a banquet center, a kitchen, a café and a multi-level indoor playground on the first floor. The second floor will have an open-concept design with an indoor walking track, fitness center, public library, senior activities and multi-purpose rooms for children. Other amenities include an outdoor playground and spacious lawns.

“I believe that artwork should be accessible to all people,” Kistler said. “By placing artwork in a public space, my work can be seen and appreciated by a larger cross section of society. People of all backgrounds and those who may not typically visit galleries or art museums deserve to be exposed to quality artwork; visual art enriches lives and exposure is important.”