Miami Proud: Artist Xavier Cortada Uses Interactive Art Rooted In Climate Change Awareness

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Art and science come together in a Miami man’s project aimed at preventing climate change.

“I want you to plant these mangroves not where I’ve been planting them, but in your yard,” says Miami artist Xavier Cortada. He is addressing members of the Ikebana flower arranging club to participate in his art exhibit called “PlanT”. It’s the first urban forestation project planting salt-tolerant mangrove seedlings- or propagules- in residential yards to prepare for sea-level rise.

“You and I know that Miami is at sea-level and will be under water. What’s going to happen by the time that little propagule becomes a 30-foot tree?”

Xavier Cortada is using mangrove seedlings to bring attention to climate change (CBS4)

The widely recognized painter sees himself as a change agent. A trip to Antarctica in 2006 proved to be a pivotal moment.

“I loved art, but science has always been my muse. I’m there with the world’s most preeminent scientists studying literally the glaciers. So, I took these ice samples these scientists gave me melted them on paper and created these ice paintings brought them to Miami to the governor, the mayor, exhibited them in the community.”

Cortada began planting mangroves and painting them over a decade ago. and in 2018 Cortada enlisted high school students to paint 25 by 25 foot “underwater markers” on roadways in Pinecrest, showing how sea-level rise will impact the area.

As artist in residence at Pinecrest Gardens his “PlanT” exhibit is coupled with volunteers giving away the mangrove seedlings.

“I’ve created this project to help people see the invisible,” he says, holding up a mangrove propagule. “Using art as a way of reframing how you think, using art as a way of engaging one another, no hysteria, it’s just a little plant but it’s a signal of what’s to come.”

Xavier Cortada is using mangrove seedlings to bring attention to climate change (CBS4)

He’s not new to tackling serious issues with an emphasis on creating hope.

“I look at art as a way to navigate through life, it’s been really useful to me to know my place in this world, my connection to one another. Art gives me the vehicle to do something about it, to engage others in it.”

You can get more information on “PlanT” and other works by Xavier Cortada at cortadaprojects.org.