BELLEVIEW - Art appreciation will soon be a walk in the park.
The Art Club of Belleview, as part of its mission to bring culture to the small city, is painting all of the benches at City Hall Park, Lake Lillian and other city parks.
Daniela Banatova said the club designed the public art project as a way to make art more approachable and accessible.
"Belleview desperately needs culture," she said. " 'Bella' means beautiful in French. We hope to bring Belleview's name to its parks."
Each table will have unique themes, from an abstract shell painting to one table featuring polka-dotted hearts.
"In Ocala they have those (Horse Fever) horses," she said. "This is for the people here. They will actually live with it."
Banatova hopes it spurs an art movement in the city, she said as a small girl looked at the cartoon character painted on one of the benches.
Businesses and residents can sponsor tables for $25. City Commissioner Gary Ernst pitched the sponsorship idea, Banatova said, before sponsoring his own table. Each picnic table must be transported to the artist's home due to the steamy weather. It usually takes a week to finish a table.
Artist Christine Slocum said she was initially dismayed by the idea, but "I like to be challenged with different shapes."
While there is a chance the benches could be defaced, Banatova said she believes the community is too tight-knit to allow it to happen.
Slocum, who has been painting since early childhood, said she hopes the project opens the door for residents to appreciate and create art.
"Everybody has different things to contribute to a community," she said. "We have art. Hopefully some people get a smile out of it."
Contact Jackie Alexander at 867-4140 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Belleview celebrates 125 years with family-friendly events, prizes
By Jackie Alexander
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Belleview has grown from the small town it was when Linda Evans moved there in 1970.
"There wasn't even a red light," she said.
Then came the Winn-Dixie. A K-Mart.
"It's just been a tremendous change since 1970," she said.
This year marks the 125th anniversary of Belleview's incorporation, which is being celebrated on Saturday with the annual Founder's Day festival.
The town began around Lake Lillian, when Marion Land and Improvement Co. bought the land.
Belleview, or beautiful view, was named after early setter John Franklin Pelot's daughter.
Voter turnout was better the first election than in recent years: 74 of 100 registered voters cast a ballot.
Today, more than 4,000 people call the City Around the Lake home.
Saturday will be Linda Evans' 40th Founder's Day.
"The people put so much into it," she said. "To me, it's a blessing."
Founder's Day will feature the traditional Miss Belleview pageant, among other pageants.
The all-day family event starts with an opening ceremony at 10 a.m. on Saturday. Mayor Tammy Moore will present six keys to the city to influential members of the city.
New this year, said Chamber of Commerce's Mariah Chaffin, is a free hot-dog eating contest, reminiscent of Takeru Kobayashi's intestinal feats at Coney Island.
For those more rhythmically inclined, there will be a Guitar Hero tournament. On-site registration is available for both.
The chamber, as well as Sweetbay and RaceTrac gas station, will be urging residents to "shop local" with a giveaway.
Participants can enter receipts from local participating businesses in a raffle for $300 in groceries and gas. There will also be other prizes given away.
Being at home is one reason Evans, who received a key to the city, enjoys living in Belleview.
"When you go to the bank or you go to the store, the people know you," Evans said. "Everybody knows everybody in Belleview ... just about."
The size of the town keeps key recipient Daniela Banatova coming back, despite many trips to show art across the world.
Banatova moved to Belleview about 20 years ago from the Czech Republic.
For the past three years, the Art Club of Belleview, which Banatova founded, has participated in Founder's Day.
"This is something that is growing," she said. "It's something that's bringing back memories and showing how the town is changing."
Chaffin said nearly all residents attend Founder's Day festivities. Some 3,500 people took part last year.
With society growing more sequestered, Founder's Day is a needed technology break, Banatova said.
"It's important for society to get back to enjoying being with each other," she said.