August 14, 2008

Reclamation Project

The Reclamation Project at the Miami Science Museum is a participatory eco-art project developed by Miami artist Xavier Cortada to help restore native habitats for plants and animals across our community.

Planting mangrove seedlings.

The Reclamation Project is the beautiful brainchild of Xavier Cortada, a Miami-based artist devoted to environmental causes. Xavier is an dear old friend of mine; I've known him since my undergrad college days, when he was in law school at UM.

If you've driven in downtown Miami, you've seen some of Xavier's artwork painted on the columns in the underpasses. The strange-looking creatures are actually his interpretation of mangrove seedlings.

Last year, I volunteered with the Reclamation Project and it was a very rewarding experience. A group of adults and schoolchildren helped Xavier plant some mangrove seeds in a protected area of Key Biscayne's Crandon Park. Knowing that each mangrove seed has the potential to flourish and become natural habitat makes the task a very powerful gesture. Xavier told me that he had fond memories of walking around that area with his father when he was a child. His passion and real love for the environment is readily apparent even in simple conversation. I love that he has taken nature to an art form; reclaiming the environment gives everyone a chance to leave a mark on the canvas of the earth.

Helping restore the environment is Xavier's way of giving to the community. In a county where urban development boundaries are a joke, Xavier's project is all the more important.

If you've lived on Miami Beach, you know what I'm talking about. Actually, now that I'm living in South Miami, Miami Beach seems like a concrete jungle to me. It's so congested with high-rises, you hardly know you're on an island. Compared to South Miami and the Everglades, Miami Beach doesn't even feel tropical anymore! That's just incredible, isn't it? On those barrier islands that were sweeped clean of natural vegetation, there remains (as far as I know) only one mangrove area that wasn't replaced by a sea wall -- the border of Indian Creek and Pinetree Park.

On August 24th, Reclamation Project will be collecting mangrove seedlings at Bear Cut. And in September, we'll plant 1100 seedlings at Virginia Key. If you want to get to know the real Florida up close and personal, this is a great way to do it. Visit Reclamation Project to learn more. If you don't want to get down and dirty, you could also contribute by adopting a mangrove seedling for $25. This part of the project is in collaboration with Miami's Museum of Science. Xavier has also collaborated with the museum on the Native Flags project, which is an urban reforestation effort in South Florida.

Xavier has pursued other singular opportunities to do environmentally-conscious art work on an international scale. He has been to both the North and South pole! I joked with him that he was probably the first hot-blooded Cuban to set foot at Antarctica's McMurdo station and would probably contribute to global warming. All kidding, of course! Xavier created some "ice paintings" that I had a chance to see last year at a Wynwood exhibit. He "painted" with ancient ice -- it's really groovy stuff.


No, it's not a cocktail!

You may have seen mangrove seedlings on display at South Beach storefronts. I wrote an article about Xavier's project at Miami Beach 411 in '06 that explains it all.

You can also see mangrove habitats at Fairchild in the "wetlands" area of the garden. Expect to see some iguanas, too!

In the spirit of Nature Girl, I continued my passion for trekking in the muck yesterday at Matheson Hammock park. Below is another video I shot on my cellphone.

1 comment:

A Cuban In London said...

Excellent post. I, too, came back from a jaunt in the countryside with a local group that concerns itself with environmental issues. The gallery is fab and the work that he is doing sound great. It's so nice to hear good news about Cubans, especially when we work on projects because we they are dear to us and not because they are 'voluntary' (you know what I mean).

Greetings from London.