Exploring a local gem

The world-class Appleton Museum of Art offers access to art, activities and special events for patrons of all ages.

Margaret Ross Tolbert, “Springs Diptych,” 2005, oil, shellac and mixed media on canvas. [Courtesy Maven Photo + Film]

Home » Arts & Entertainment
Posted March 12, 2024 | By Christian Gordon, Special to the Gazette

The Appleton Museum of Art hosts a First Free Saturday on a monthly basis, during which visitors can browse the museum at no cost. The March 2 event saw a crowd large enough that the museum’s parking lot reached capacity, so the nearby Ocala Civic Theatre was used as an overflow parking area.

Among the events that drew the large crowd was a performance by the Calendar Girls, a group of mature women who hold a love of dance. The ensemble is made up of dancers both professional and amateur, all with a deep passion for the art of dance. The group treated audiences to two showings of a five-dance performance followed by a screening of the film, “Calendar Girls,” which received the honor of being selected to show at the Sundance Film Festival.

The Calendar Girls perform on March 2, 2024, at the Appleton Museum of Art. [Photo by Christian Gordon]

The 84-minute film examines themes ranging from mortality to the effects of empty nest syndrome, the feeling of loneliness or purposelessness that parents can feel once their children move out of the family home. For every personal struggle the film examines, each troupe member finds strength and solidarity in knowing that they have not just dance, but each other as a comfort. The Calendar Girls leverage their performances to raise money for Paws for Patriots, a charity that provides service dogs for military veterans in need.

During the free day, as well as its permanent installations, museum goers also had the opportunity to explore a myriad of new exhibitions, including Margaret Ross Tolbert’s “Water’s Margins.” The exhibit chronicles Tolbert’s experiences with natural springs, both local and international. Tolbert draws inspiration from, “The force, the spatial ambiguity, the freedom, the precise and rhapsodic view of this different world— these experiences are less about describing and presenting and more about being.”

According to Tolbert’s artist statement, her work captures the movement, serenity, and beauty that is ever present in natural water. She often uses slabs of slate to paint underwater, engulfed in her muse. One of her goals with this exhibition was to translate that feeling of submersion to viewers. She achieved that by using large canvases that span near entire lengths of walls to recreate underwater scenes. Complete with swirls of blue and outlines of underwater life, her painted slates are available for viewing as well.

While Tolbert praises natural waters with a more abstract artistic vision, Karen Glaser does so through a unique photographic perspective in her exhibition, “Springs and Swamps.” Her exhibition highlights the uniqueness and beauty of Florida’s swamps and springs by playing with color (or lack thereof) and water while capturing perfect moments, both serene and chaotic.

This exhibit at the Appleton Museum of Art explores Women in Art. [Photo by Christian Gordon]

Photography enthusiasts can also appreciate Martha Strawn’s installation, “Across the Threshold of India.” Strawn’s collection gives viewers a glimpse into Indian culture, especially highlighting the symbols that have significant meaning. Among the symbols are drawings of India’s national flower, the lotus, and the swastika, which represents good luck, purity, truth, and the sun in Hinduism. According to online sources, the swastika is a holy sign and symbol from thousands of years ago, well before it received negative connotation because of its use by Nazis. Strawn also spotlights the beauty of everyday life by capturing subjects as they are naturally, whether that be architecture, nature, or humans.

First Free Saturday visitors also can take advantage of the Appleton’s education wing, which allows guests to create their own artwork. The Clay Lab is dedicated to teaching clay work and pottery, while the Art Lab teaches visitors painting on media from canvases to scarves. In the Artspace, visitors can let their imagination run wild and create artwork free of instruction. The Artspace is especially fun for parents and children to enjoy together.

“Beginning in February 2020, the Appleton Museum of Art began First Free Saturday as a way to expand opportunities to all community members to enjoy the museum’s world-class encyclopedic art collection,” said Jason Steuber, director of the museum.

Judging by the turnout, the museum has succeeded in doing just that. Guests can look forward to a new slate of events during the next First Free Saturday on April 6.

In the meantime, the museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. The admission fee for an adult is $10 ($8 for seniors), with no charge for youth ages 5 and younger. Museum memberships are available. The venue, located at 4333 E. Silver Springs Blvd., also hosts other special events, classes and summer camps.

To learn more, visit appletonmuseum.org



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