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H2O Trickle Down: Florida’s Water Explored through the Camera Lenses of Six Prominent Artists

Tom Fitz, Schoolyard Films

So, have you ever fully considered where our freshwater supply comes from?

TF: You know, it’s underneath our feet. If you live in Florida, wherever you are, it’s underneath you and it’s kind of out of sight out of mind and most people don’t even know that it’s there.

That’s Tom Fitz.  He is a film maker for the Blue Planet series, National Geographic, PBS, BBC, and the Smithsonian. And he has won 6 Emmys!

We spoke to him Sunday evening (sound of phone ringing) after he spent a long day in Central Florida in the Springs area working….

TF: …on a new series for National Geographic…

OK, so, for the majority of us, groundwater, which comes from the underground aquifer, is the source of our water supply.

TF: What we do up above – what we do on the land above the aquifer – absolutely goes down into the aquifer at some point. It may take years to get into the aquifer or it may be quicker, but what we do in terms of the fertilizers that we put on our lawns, how we farm...

Add to that all of the pollutants that go into the system from industry, from our cities…

TF: All of this stuff goes into the aquifer, and that’s our drinking water.

Fitz learned to cave dive specifically to create a documentary on the aquifer.

TF: I had wanted to make a film on the Floridan Aquifer for a long time. So I learned to cave dive. It is very technical but it’s only very dangerous if you take short cuts.

He’s one of six artists featured in the Florida waterway-themed exhibit H2O: TRICKLE DOWN going on now through February 12 at Lighthouse ArtCenter in Tequesta. We stopped by to see the entire show.

Credit Tania Ortega-Cowan
Janeen Mason in front of a large format Clyde Butcher photograph

JM: So, the LightHouse Art Center was formed 56 years ago by 8 artists and Christopher Norton, the son of the West Palm Beach Nortons.

That’s curator Janeen Mason. We ask her about H2O: Trickle Down.

JM: About a year ago Marshall Field, who is on the board of the Everglades Foundation, and Peter Lawson Johnston, who is the grandson of Solomon R. Guggenheim and our Honorary chairman of the Board, sat here and talked about what we could do to bring awareness to the environmental issues that are facing Florida and who could we get to bring the full strength of their talent and we made this dream team list and every single one of them said yes.

Including large format, black and white photographer Clyde Butcher…

JM: …And of course he is known as the Ansel Adams of the Everglades.

There’s nationally award-winning photographers Mac Stone and Carlton Ward, underwater photographer Ruth Petzold, and Edie Widder from ORCA. With this one exhibition, Mason says,

JM: …you can follow a drop of water from the Florida aquifer down through the Everglades, out through Florida Bay, into the ocean, and into the ocean’s deep.

Meanwhile, we wanted to know more about Tom Fitz and the work he does with his nonprofit Schoolyard Films which offers films and accompanying study guides for free.

TF: I like to think it’s a nice resource for teachers… 

He says they’re focused on…

TF: …making solid environmental films for young kids because they’re going to be the leaders of tomorrow and my generation sadly has really made a lot of screw ups, and so I think it’s important to give them a strong conservation ethic and that’s what we’re trying to do with Schoolyard Films.

H2O Trickle Down runs now through February 12 at Lighthouse Art Center, located at 373 Tequesta Drive in Tequesta.

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