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Ocala Artwalk Offers Folk Artists Local Outlet

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Once a month, local artists take to the streets surrounding the Ocala downtown square to display and sell their work.

At First Friday Artwalks, creations aren’t confined to canvases.

“There’s a lot of diversity here for a small town in terms of the artwork,” said Matthew Fischer, 27, an Ocala-based airbrush artist and pinstriper.

As the name suggests, the First Friday Artwalk takes place on the first Friday of each month from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and celebrates local art, both fine and folk.

In contrast to more formal art, folk art is mainly functional and decorative rather than principally aesthetic. Art by the people, for the people – this is the theme at Ocala’s Artwalk.

“It feels like something a little more familiar,” said John Yakulevich, who was selling portraits of legendary musicians, ranging from Tupac to Jimi Hendrix, on Friday.

When Yakulevich isn’t busy teaching art to students at Ocala’s Forest High School he recycles wood boards to paint quotes and portraits on them with house paint. He said he got his start with scrap wood obtained from his church.

“I got permission to raid the burn pile and so that’s where I started with the rough barn boards,” he said.

Yakulevich said he favors old wooden planks not only because they are a cheap material but also because he enjoys finding new purposes for things.

Repurposing, a defining aspect of folk art, is a common trend at Artwalk.

Jody Schaible, a farrier for the University of Florida, has transformed his blacksmithing career into an art endeavor that relies on recycled cutlery. He calls it Forkinart.

“It really started out trying to repurpose as much as possible and this really fell in,” he said.

Jody Schaible (left) sits next to his wife, Elaine, while his art sits on display at downtown Ocala's First Friday Artwalk.
Jody Schaible (left) sits next to his wife, Elaine, while his art sits on display at downtown Ocala's First Friday Artwalk.

The concept began two years ago with a pair of makeshift curtain tiebacks that Schaible made from two soup spoons out of necessity. He said the impromptu art caught on and soon he was taking requests for custom silverware creations.

“It’s a resource that the people just don’t think about,” Schaible said.

The pieces Schaible works with are quite old, many of them aged more than 100 years, and he enjoys the history surrounding them.

“Imagine how many dinners this was at,” he said as he held up a ring fashioned from and old presidential spoon. “How many engagements, births, arguments, weddings, just imagine how many.”

Schaible said Ocala’s First Friday Artwalk is an opportunity for more casual artists, such as himself, to expose people to their work and gain confidence.

“If it wasn’t for the Artwalk I woulda never had a platform to get out,” he said.

Yakulevich echoed this sentiment.

“I think it’s a great place to kind of get started,” he said.

In addition to being a good starting spot, Yakulevich said the Artwalk has also provided direction and motivation for his artistic efforts.

For Fischer, the pinstriping pieces that he presents at Artwalk started as a reprieve from more traditional art.

“I was a drawing and print making major so I did etching and figure drawing, and then I kinda stopped that and started doing more industrious art,” said Fischer, a former University of Central Florida student. “I was a fine artist and I really got tired of that.”

Fischer said color theory and symmetry are still very important to his work but art doesn’t always have to be about specific statements.

In lieu of making statements, artists at the First Friday Artwalk in downtown Ocala focused on representing the spirit of local craft art and creating a positive atmosphere for passers-by to enjoy.

“Making someone happy, ya know, that’s really fun,” Yakulevich said.

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  • Rob B

    Great stuff John Yakulevich! Keep it up!