THE QUEST FOR THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH in Florida History, Mythology and Art

The Thomas Center Gallery, Gainesville, FL. (March 29th - June 22nd, 2013)

Commemorating the 500th Anniversary Ponce de Leon’s Landing in Florida over 30 original art works by contemporary Florida artists that will document the history of the Fountain story in Florida and explore interpretations of the significance of the story in their own lives and in the life of our community. Cortada’s 2001 installation, “Prime: The Residual Fountain of Youth,” will be on display. On Thursday, May 2nd, Cortada will lead participants in “Agua,” a participatory ritualistic performance.

“AGUA” commemorates the 500th Anniversary of Juan Ponce de Leon’s journey from Puerto Rico to the place he named Florida.  This participatory art project by Miami artist Xavier Cortada engages locals in finding their own fountain of youth and recounting their own families’ journeys to Florida.

Cortada will ask community members to collect water from their own “fountains” (e.g., from rain, from a favorite location) and in so doing offer a wish (or an idea to revitalize their community) for the next 500 years. 


During the exhibit, participants will bring a vessel containing the water they collected to the gallery and place it on the floor inside the circle formed by the arrangement of 12 buckets around a birdbath (Cortada’s original “Prime: The Residual Fountain of Youth” Installation). Together, they will be creating a present-day Fountain of Youth.  

Participants are asked to upload photos of the water they collected and write their wish (or an idea to revitalize our state for the next 500 years) online at  (Scroll down)

Participants are also encouraged to think about those who have come to Florida since Ponce de Leon arrived.  They are asked to think about the first ancestor of theirs to journey to Florida and mark the year of their relative’s arrival (e.g., mother, father, grandparent, great grandparent) and also upload that information online.  

Throughout the exhibit, there will be a station where individuals can handwrite their wish and related information.
On May 2nd, 2013, Cortada will lead the community in a ritualistic performance of “Agua.” Participants will speak their wishes into the water-filled vessels in the gallery.  Afterwards, they will walk outside the gallery in a procession carrying their water.  Each will pour (some of) the water in their container out to water a FLOR500 native wildflower garden (see to be planted nearby.
Xavier Cortada, “Prime: Residual Fountain of Youth,” 2001.  (Image: Screengrab from video by Bill Bilowit)
Xavier Cortada, “Conquistadores,” acrylic on canvas, 60″ x 36″, 2007.