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Ocala’s history on display, where to learn about Black and Cuban culture

Published: Apr. 14, 2021 at 6:00 PM EDT
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OCALA, Fla. (WCJB) - There’s even more to learn about Ocala’s history, and city employees are making sure the city’s history is proudly on display.

The newly refurbished vintage neon sign was placed back onto the Brick City Center for the Arts building Wednesday.

With funds from the city’s general fund and through the community revitalization program, the city was able to repair the sign, awning, and other aspects of the exterior.

“At MCA, Marion Cultural Alliance, probably four years ago, there wasn’t any art at all-around the building and so part of the goal was the have arts at our art center as well as throughout downtown and across the city,” Cultural Arts and Sciences Division head for the City of Ocala, Laura Walker said.

And just a few minutes outside of downtown, more art is being installed.

There will be a total of four panels that will be installed at the Scott Springs Park.

On one side there are images depicting Ocala’s Black history, and on the other side, will be images showing Ocala’s Cuban history.

The African art was originally placed at Legacy Park but had to be refurbished after the different pieces were defaced.

“With public art we don’t always, we can’t always protect the pieces as much as we like as they are on public display. We had an unfortunate incident with an axe. They were destroyed by somebody who had an axe, but the artist was kind enough to come in and redo them for us and I think they look gorgeous and vibrant as ever,” Cultural Arts Supervisor City of Ocala Recreation & Parks, Leslie Nottingham said.

In the process, brand new Cuban scenes were added to the opposite side.

Both artists used original Ocala photographs for inspiration.

“There’s this great scene of these Cuban women rolling cigars and there’s a man sitting up on top reading a newspaper and what they would do is they would hire readers to come in to keep these women entertained as they rolled cigars, so that was their professional job, they would read the newspaper, or they would read novels, they would read Shakespeare, because it was before radio,” Nottingham added.

All of the panels are expected to be installed Thursday.

Related: Students learn about Ocala’s Black History mural

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