Horse Fever Hits Florida

Members from the equine, business and artistic community are coming together in a demonstration of solidarity to show their true colors, as Marion County braces for an outbreak of horse fever.

The Marion Cultural Alliance Inc., a non-for-profit organization, in conjunction with the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association hopes to encourage support for the arts through exhibiting 50 colorfully painted life-size horses over a five-month period, starting this September.

"We're hoping this project advocates and educates the public about art, and generates exposure for the arts and awareness for the entire community," said Horse Fever Steering Committee chairman Laurie Menard.

The project calls for each horse (which stands 6 feet tall and weighs between 115 and 145 pounds) to have a sponsor, who will determine the location, and they'll be able to stylize their horse from a selection of pre-approved, juried designs.

Sponsorships cost $3,500 each, and a plaque will bear the name of each sponsor, the artist, and the horse. Part of the proceeds generated from the fund raising mechanisms will go into an endowment fund, and a portion of the grants will be distributed among qualifying organizations.

"This will give a number of groups and organizations an idea about what grants are available to them," said Menard.

The committee is in the process of selecting artists to paint the horses, and applications may be submitted through June 1.

"The community has shown great enthusiasm and been very supportive of the project. The Marion Cultural Alliance will serve as a unifying organization for the community," said Menard.

The horses will be auctioned off March 16, 2002, with the proceeds being divided between the Marion Cultural Alliance and a local charity of the purchaser's choice.

The Marion County project is patterened after Horse Maina, sponsored last year by the Lexington (Ky.) Arts and Cultural Council. From June through November, 79 fiberglass horses were on display throughout Lexington. The project concluded with a horse auction netting $757,600.