In the Loop
Alumni News : Oct 4, 2016

Margaret Ross Tolbert transforms award-winning book into new exhibition

By Casey Wooster

“If people can fall in love with the springs, they will want to take care of it,” explained UF alumna and local artist Margaret Ross Tolbert (BFA Art ’74; MFA Art ’77) discussing her new exhibition AQUIFERious at Stetson University’s The Hand Art Center.

The multimedia exhibition curated by Tolbert intends to immerse visitors in the rare beauty of Florida's 100,000 square-mile aquifer that feeds into more than 1,000 freshwater springs. Based on her 2010 award-winning book of the same title, AQUIFERious continues to stress the urgency of preserving the state’s freshwater system by providing viewers with an understanding of springs’ fragile and endangered ecosystems from above and below.

 “As an artist, we need to reveal what got us inspired,” says Tolbert. “When we share that with others, they can’t help but respond.”

Living in Gainesville, Tolbert finds her inspiration diving into the freshwater springs scattered throughout the North Florida area. As part of her artmaking process, the artist swims, dives, paints and paddles. She likens these experiences of being in spring water as being akin to the creation of her large-scale paintings, where she attempts to express an experience instead of illustrating a moment.

Along with her large-scale paintings, the exhibition features underwater photography by Jill Heinerth, Mark Long, Tom Morris and springs maps by Eric Hutcheson and Georgia Shemitz. Tolbert, also, provides a behind-the-scenes view of the artists and scientists that inspired and taught her along the way.

To learn more about Tolbert and her work, visit

AQUIFERious runs from August 19 until October 22 at Stetson University’s Hand Art Center and is jointly funded by the Stetson Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience.

For further information on the exhibition, visit The Hand Art Center’s website at