First Fridays are back in Ocala – You can browse art and listen to live music


Art is a form of expression that can be appreciated for the emotions evoked in the minds of its audience. The art scene in Ocala, Florida is teeming with inspiration and countless talented artists seeking to perfect their art and spread their idea of ​​creativity.

The city hosts art-focused events throughout the year. On September 3, the First Friday Art Walk resumed in the city’s historic district. The next event will take place this Friday October 1st. The event features local artists exhibiting and selling their work to attendees with live music and family art activities offered by arts organizations.

The Appleton Museum of Art, located at 4333 East Silver Springs Blvd., features local artists and students from the College of Central Florida. The museum is managed by the college and has around 18,000 objects and exhibits.

The Brick City Center for the Arts, located at 23 SW Broadway St., is another hub for local artists who want to exhibit their work. Brick City chooses a new exhibit from a local artist each month to create opportunities for them and local arts organizations.

Jaye Baillie is the executive director of the Brick City Center, and she believes the arts community is growing. Baillie attributes the funding aid to local organizations and the community becoming more supportive of public art in the city.

“The Marion Cultural Alliance was created in 2001. Our main mission is to champion artists and provide them with opportunities and to truly be the leader of the arts community,” said Baillie.

Baillie said their main function is to raise money and distribute it to local arts organizations such as the Reilly Center, Max and FAFO. The last prize was $ 415,000 and grants of up to $ 5,000 for arts organizations. The contributions reached 362,000 people, Baillie said.

According to US News and World Report rankings, Ocala is one of the fastest growing US cities, with renowned companies creating jobs and the horse market being more robust than ever with the addition of the World Equestrian Center. . With more people in the city, the more likely it is to train young artists to produce their work that the city can appreciate.

One of the notable artists of Ocala’s art scene is EJ Nieves. After graduating from the University of Central Florida with a graphic design degree, Nieves found a hobby that made him happy and made a career out of it. He moved to Ocala a little over two years ago and built his reputation in the city.

Nieves has his art gallery called NEHS. galleries at 1523 NE 8th Ave. Currently, Nieves is renovating the gallery to accommodate his exhibitions in full view of the world. Additionally, the 37-year-old has a small mural at the Paddock Mall in Ocala.

Recently, Nieves had the opportunity to create two paintings used in the context of Media Day for the Florida Gators football team.

Nieves would like to see certain aspects of Ocala’s art scene improve as he feels there is a lack of unity among the band members.

“Build bridges, not kingdoms” is the mantra of Nieves’ artistic career. Nieves said that many art entities only favor the artists they want to promote and do not link all the artists into one big community.

“You need conversations. There is favoritism, isolation and rejection and it takes intentional shows that bring us all together. More initiatives and events need to be adapted to build this bridge between all entities, ”said Nieves.

Justin Alsedek is a local artist who runs a gallery next to EJ Nieves on 8th Avenue. in Ocala. Alsedek was once a traveling artist who used festivals as a source of profit. Now that Alsedek has moved into a gallery, he has organized exhibitions with other artists and plans to have more exhibitions later this year.

“Everyone in town and in the artistic community is close. Joining MCA is one of the first things I did when I moved here and becoming a member has helped me meet the artist community here, ”said Alsedek.

For the past eight years, Jordan Shapot has been a part of the Ocala arts community and exhibits work at the Brick City Center for the Arts and the NOMA Gallery in Ocala. According to Shapot, the artists in the area are a tight-knit group who spend time together and help each other when needed.

“Over the past 10 years, Ocala has really focused on raising the bar in the arts and culture scene,” Shapot said.

Shapot explained that arts and culture are the pillars of any community and are necessary to support healthy development for any city. He compared local artists to pioneers as the city is poised to become an exciting place for all generations.

Art can be used in a variety of ways to get audiences thinking about social issues that affect everyone. Art doesn’t always have to be meaningful, but it can spark conversations about what to talk about or as a reminder to appreciate the little things, Shapot said.

“We try to open the eyes of viewers or give them a different perspective, or it can be used as an escape from everyday life,” Shapot said.

There are countless art forms and some styles don’t have an explicit meaning, but they invite people to think critically or transport them to a moment in time.

A new player in the Ocala art scene is the NOMA Gallery, located at 939 Magnolia Ave., Shapot is one of the many artists whose work is on display at the gallery. Dave and Lisa Midgett created NOMA as a limited-time relief at the height of the covid pandemic in 2020. They allowed artists to show and sell their work without commission.

The gallery was so successful that the Midgetts decided to make it a full-time art gallery with juryed exhibitions and public events. NOMA being a private gallery, it allows artists to share different art ideas without limitation.

A statement on Midgett’s official NOMA website says, “Art offers us unique perspectives, inspires personal creativity, and allows us to experience universal emotions in new ways.”

Tito Comas has experience in the art world with his marketing and advertising company called Grafito, Inc.

“Having a good arts community can bring you great business because people see that there is a lot of culture in the area and it has a lot of benefits,” he said.


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