Getting Artsy in Ocala

Organizing and hosting an event such as the Ocala Arts Festival requires a Herculean effort—and that’s not counting curves thrown by Mother Nature.

This year’s event, held October 26th and 27th, all around the downtown square, boasted incredible works of art, countless numbers of lookers and buyers, and a wide range of supplemental offerings, such as food and entertainment. It also included some blustery winds, rain showers and unusually high temperatures. Even so, nothing could dampen the enthusiasm of the participants or visitors.

The event is put on by Fine Arts for Ocala, Inc., best known as FAFO.

“Our 53rd annual Ocala Arts Festival was a huge success,” said FAFO Administrative Coordinator Maggie Weakley. “We had amazing crowds coming to see the 161 artists.  The 25-member FAFO board worked so hard to ensure that our artists were well taken care off. The entertainment throughout the event was fantastic. Everyone loved the food vendors and community booths.”

The works of this year’s featured artist, Michelle McDowell Smith, were highly visible in many forms of media to promote the event, such as online, on billboards and in print materials. She described her work as mixed media collage with acrylic paint.

“I use all kinds of vintage papers and old letters and post cards and maps,” Smith stated on Saturday morning while setting up her booth. “I just work in layers and then paint on top, with raised acrylic paint so those things show through but are kind of hidden too.”

Many of her paintings are accompanied by text written by her husband, Toby Smith.

“While she’s working on a piece, she is talking to me about what she’s trying to convey, what she’s thinking,” he noted. “At some point I go away and write and then show it to her. By the time she’s finished, I usually have a finished poem or narrative.”

Weakley said the first art festival was organized in 1966. FAFO was incorporated in 1972, with a mission to promote the appreciation of fine arts and enhance art education within the community through scholarships and community programs, and to support local art-based organizations.

FAFO also hosts the Symphony Under the Stars event each year on Mother’s Day. The Ocala Symphony Orchestra provides the music and the event is held at the Ocala Golf Club. It is the signature fundraiser for the arts festival and enables FAFO to give cash awards to artists.

“We are so grateful to our Presenting Sponsor, Palm Chevrolet, which generously supports both of FAFO’s events. We are so grateful to all our sponsors for their generosity,” Weakley emphasized. “Without them, we would not have been able to give out over $29,000 worth of awards to the artists and student artists this year. It was a great show!”

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