The Beginnings-How Marion Cultural Alliance Came To Be

By Paula King, Founding Chairman, Board of Directors

In the early 1990’s, a group of volunteers regularly gathered at Brick City Center for the Arts, a joint venture of the city of Ocala and College of Central Florida. This gallery was established in the heart of historic downtown Ocala as an early catalyst for revitalization.

Our group, whose activities supported both Brick City Center for the Arts and Discovery Science Center (then in the Marion Theatre space), became known as  the Ocala Arts and Science Coalition. Our membership and successes grew year by year as downtown Ocala came back to life.

By the summer of 2000, the ownership of the entities we supported was changing, and we needed to change, too. By coincidence, the world-wide Animals-on-Parade public art projects were entering the US, combining love of art and animals in such a whimsical and uplifting way, that they quickly became a phenomenon, and one gaining speed.  The public art produced thrilling results, creating common identity, philanthropy, and amazing civic pride in every city that tried it.

A group that included Ellen Gilchrist, Stew Robinson, Laurie Zink, Jessica McCune, Rus Adams and me found ourselves in the Horse Capital of the World, inspired by this public art movement  to re-invent our organization. The goal was to channel our passion for the arts into some the relevant and lasting. We thought we might be on to something.

Marion Cultural Alliance was formed, and Horse Fever became Ocala’s very own celebration thanks to the talented visual artists, dedicated and visionary volunteers, generous sponsors, and a city that loves horses. Not even the terrorist attack of 9/11- two weeks prior to our horses’ debut – could dampen the power of these amazing four-legged expressions of community pride.  In fact, the terrible event underscored the power of art, showed how art convenes. Art heals. Art expresses the desires, struggles, and aspirations of the human heart.

Take a look at our video. You’ll see highlights of our first 15 years, what we’ve done with the over $2 million raised by Horse Fever and other efforts, and perhaps be inspired to join us as we champion, convene, and create into what promises to be an incredible future.

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