By Autumn N. Bryan, FAU Center for Environmental Studies
Miami is a place ripe with art and passion, sweltering heat and rising tides. The 15th Annual Southeast Florida Climate Leadership Summit spotlighted artists that know well the dangers of climate change.
At a panel on “Inspiring Climate Action and Activism through Art,” artists Naomi Fisher and Xavier Cortada focused on the importance of community support for the success of art and environmentalism. Fisher founded Bas Fisher Invitational, an alternative art space in Miami that collaborates with local organizations to facilitate exhibits.
“We’ve noticed over time that more and more artists in our city are really focusing on environmental issues, because it’s such a crucial crisis,” she said.
Cortada is Miami-Dade County’s inaugural artist in residence, a professor at the University of Miami and the founder of the Xavier Cortada Foundation, a nonprofit that uses socially engaged art to educate and mobilize communities around climate and environmental action. Adam Roberti, the foundation’s executive director, said Cortada’s role as Miami-Dade’s artist in residence is to “bridge the divide” between climate change and community action using the power of art.
Cortada’s latest project, “The Underwater,” is being showcased at this year’s Miami Art Week. Interactive installations are being held at Lummus Park and the ARSHT Center between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. until Sunday.
Cortada said the inspiration for “The Underwater” came from a trip that he took to Antarctica and the impact of global warming there on sea-level rise in Miami.
“The very ice that I was standing on … thanks to human impacts … threatened to melt and drown the place I called home,” he said.
The project seeks to involve the audience, asking that residents and shop owners of Miami participate by displaying yard signs featuring images of melting Antarctic ice with their shop or home’s position relative to the sea level.
The purpose of the project is to start conversations surrounding rising sea levels. A sea of blue yard signs will swamp Miami neighborhoods, symbolizing the invading tides.
“My job as an artist is to make visible what wasn’t visible to me until Antarctica showed it to me … the future of rising seas,” Cortada said.
Cortada is among artists using a variety of ways to promote advocacy, resilience and sustainable change. South Florida artists showcased at the climate summit, such as Laurencia Strauss, Joyce Billet and Claudio Marcotulli, utilize materials from the surrounding land to address climate injustices through art.
The art projects displayed at this year’s summit, held last month in Miami Beach, also included “Reconstructed Dade County Pine” by Nick Gilmore and “Within the Tapestry,” an exploration of Florida’s diverse natural wonders by Deborah Mitchell.
Cortada showcased his project “One Water,” in which Reverend Houston R. Cypress of the Otter Clan of the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida and Alex Tigertail-Baks, driving airboats, painted the words “One Water,” across the sloughs of Big Cypress.
Cortada says his intention is to educate and catalyze, to create a platform where people can communicate and learn from one another using inspired solutions.
“I believe we can use the power of art, creativity and creative ways of thinking to imagine new realities,” he said.
This article was written by Autumn N. Bryan, a graduate student at Florida Atlantic University pursuing a master’s degree in the geoscience program. She works as a research assistant for FAU’s Center for Environmental Studies and reporter for The Invading Sea. Watch below to see Bryan’s interview with Adam Roberti, executive director of the Xavier Cortada Foundation, at the climate leadership summit.