Sculpture Stroll takes shape in Tuscawilla Park

Art and nature converge in harmony at the expansive Tuscawilla Park, adding inspiration and surprises to an otherwise everyday stroll or ride around the lake.

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Posted February 4, 2022 | By Julie Garisto | Special to the Gazette

Art and nature converge in harmony at the expansive Tuscawilla Park, adding inspiration and surprises to an otherwise everyday stroll or ride around the lake.

Since 2011, the city of Ocala has installed works that are at once magnificent, abstract and uncanny in the downtown-area park, curated from juried competitions.

Last month, the city’s Cultural Arts and Sciences Division installed 10 new sculptures, selected for the 2022-23 Ocala Outdoor Sculpture Competition. The jury-selected sculptures will be on display until January 2024.

Components of the project include a scavenger hunt, catalog and online mobile device tour.

Two public events will celebrate the installations, with the BOBA (Beginning of Bolted Art) Brunch from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 19 at the Magnolia Art Xchange, 531 NE First Ave. Art lovers can engage with an artist panel and enjoy music, food and mimosas on the scenic platform of the historic Ocala Union Station. (Alas, there will be no boba tea at BOBA this year.)

The free Tuscawilla Park Sculpture Stroll Celebration kicks off after the brunch and will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The family-friendly event will feature tours, live entertainment, free art activities and an opportunity to vote for your favorite sculpture to win the People’s Choice Award.

The competition’s “formal” juror will be Rangsook Yoon, curator of Modern Art at The Baker Museum in Naples. City representatives will announce the juried winner and the people’s choice winner at the event.

The city markets the event on a national level, explained Laura Walker, City of Ocala Cultural Arts and Sciences Division Head.

“We have applicants from all over the United States and sometimes Canada who apply,” Walker said. “Around 100 applicants submitted works this year and we have a jury that selects from those applicants, made up of local arts, organizational leaders and also stakeholders in our community. We have two additional Florida artists in addition to the Ocala artist accepted into the competition this year.”

That Ocala-based artist is Flaminio Antonio, who has a metallic bric-a-brac style that locals will recognize from the last competition. The piece from the last stroll, Antonio’s “Strength of Perseverance” horse — made out of different gears — will be relocated permanently to the Ocala International Airport this week.

For this sculpture, Antonio noted, he got his muse from a time when giant reptiles roamed the planet.

“I decided to open a window to the past,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “I met this beautiful animal, the Tyrannosaurus Rex, the most feared predator of its time, today only surpassed by man. This marvelous monster that is 2 meters and 45 centimeters high and 4 meters and 40 centimeters long.”

Donald Gialanella, another renowned metal sculptor, debuts this year with the stunning female bust, “Gaia,” named in honor of the mythological deity the Greeks deemed the ancestral mother of all life on Earth.

“I have not been in the Ocala show before,” the St. Petersburg-based artist wrote in an email to the Gazette. “It has been a wonderful experience working with Ocala, especially with Cindy Leung, who has been a dependable and exceptional contact for organizing and setting up the piece. It’s a beautiful venue and I’m honored to be part of the show.”

The year started off with a bang for Gialanella. “I’m working on several exciting commissions, including the cauldron for the Special Olympics USA games coming to Orlando this summer, a monumental abstract sunburst sculpture for a roundabout in Palm Desert, CA, and a grouping of 20 life-size cranes for Baptist Hospital, Nassau in Fernandina.” (Check out his work at donsculpture.com.)

The Ocala Outdoor Sculpture Competition is a biennial staple, according to Walker.

“Public art is accessible to everyone and encourages thought and creative expression,” she said.

Tickets for the brunch are $25 online or $30 at the door and $5 of each ticket will benefit the Magnolia Art Xchange artist residency program. The sculpture stroll is free to attend. For information, visit www.ocalafl.org/artpark or call (352) 629-8447.