When Cortada first witnessed a violent uprooting of mangrove forests in the Florida Keys in 2006, he became motivated to take action and protect these native habitats. He launched the Reclamation Project on Earth Day 2006 at the Bass Museum. This year, Cortada’s solo exhibit, “The Reclamation Project: Engaging Community For 15 Years Through Participatory Eco-art,” honored the quindecennial of his participatory eco-art project at the University of Miami Wynwood Gallery.


Mangrove seedlings in clear, water-filled cups – like those he first installed in a grid at the Bass Museum on Earth Day 2006 – are on display, as well as the original mangrove drawings used in his 2004 Downtown metaphorical restoration effort, Miami Mangrove Forest. “In using arts and culture to build community, we often forget that the greatest resource isn’t necessarily the program we design, or the object we create, or the idea we generate. It is the people themselves.” states Xavier Cortada


15 Years of Reclamation Project also exhibits long-lived ecological art interventions across the state of Florida which utilize the imagery of mangroves as a symbol of that to which we owe the responsibility of taking care of. Mangroves provide a variety of services to humans and ecosystems alike. They help to stabilize Florida’s coastline and protect it from erosion, provide nearby populated areas with natural protection from storm surge, improve the water quality flowing from rivers and streams into the ocean, function as estuarine habitats and shelter to wildlife, and perhaps most importantly, capture and store carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gasses in their soils for millions of years. Unfortunately, the mangrove is under threat. Human activities such as dredging, filling, water pollution and development are causing an exponential decline of critically important mangrove forests.

Now, 15 years since the inception the the Reclamation Project, the initiative has branched into several other projects, encouraging locals to restore native habitats as coastal cities like Miami plan for a future with rising seas. These participatory eco-art projects include: Native Flags, Underwater HOA, Plan(T), FLOR500 and Flower Force.


Born in New York to Cuban exiles and raised in Miami, Xavier Cortada is an artist and Professor of Practice at the University of Miami. Particularly environmentally focused, the work Xavier Cortada develops is intended to generate awareness and action towards issues of global climate change and social justice. Over the past three decades, the socially-engaged artist has created art at the North and South poles and across 6 continents, including more than 150 public artworks and dozens of installations, collaborative murals and other projects.

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