Using art to save Florida’s iconic springs

"Fanning Springs, Descent” by Margaret Ross Tolbert. 1997. Oil on canvas, 132 x 96 inches (vertical piece). The painting is from the 1997 traveling exhibition “Portals and Passages” that was shown around Florida. It depicts the descent into Fanning Springs.

When she viewed a retrospective exhibition of her paintings of Florida springs, Gainesville artist Margaret Ross Tolbert was shocked to discover that, “My paintings were showing different colors of green in the spectrum of blues, and I finally realized this was no artistic innovation on my part, but it was that I was seeing the brilliant green of algal growth in the springs’ headwaters, where once the dark strands of eel grass waved beneath the surface. I was seeing (and documenting) the effects of reduced flow (or discharge) in the springs, some of which have decreased several levels of magnitude.”  

Since that time, Tolbert has been very involved in using her art to advance environmental awareness and to educate her viewers about the plight of Florida’s fabled springs. As a member of the World Springs Project, she has traveled widely, met with environmental groups worldwide and written a book, “AQUIFERious,” that includes essays by respected environmentalists and nature writers along with images of her artwork. 

Angelia S. Rico

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