Using socially engaged art, "The Underwater" will work with Miami's marginalized communities to amplify "Underwater Voices" - those who are underrepresented, underserved, and undervalued. Collaborating with local partners, this social practice effort will use art to map the area's vulnerability to rising seas and mobilize residents to demand that government equitably plan for a future impacted by climate change.


Creative Capital believes that funding the creation of new work by groundbreaking artists is vital to the vibrancy of our culture, society, and our democracy. We are dedicated to supporting artists who are pushing boundaries and asking challenging questions—especially now when new ideas are critical to imagining our future,” said Christine Kuan, Creative Capital President and Executive Director.

“The selected projects critically and creatively address some of the most pressing issues of our moment, as well as painful historical legacies that continue to shape our present— from abortion, to money laundering in the art world, to the mass graves from the convict leasing program, to the lasting imprint colonization has left on the construct of time zones,” said Aliza Shvarts, Creative Capital Director of Artist Initiatives. “These artists demonstrate, with urgency and power, the many ways creative practice not only engages the world, but endeavors to shape it.”

Xavier Cortada uses art’s elasticity to work across disciplines to engage communities in problem solving. The crux of Cortada’s work finds itself rooted in a deep conceptual engagement of his participants. Particularly environmentally focused, the work Cortada develops is intended to generate awareness and action towards issues of global climate change. The Cuban-American artist has created art across six continents including more than 150 public artworks (sculptures, ceramics, paintings, digital works), collaborative murals and socially engaged projects. 


For almost three decades, I’ve developed and implemented socially engaged art processes to strengthen our connection to each other and the natural world. In my practice, I use participatory projects, performances, lectures, installations, and public art to engage participants. Indeed, much of my art is structured around creating experiential activities that pique curiosity, instill a sense of responsibility and encourage further exploration to build a cadre of engaged, compassionate and science-literate citizens. I often collaborate with scientists in the art-making: I’ve worked with population geneticists to explore our ancestral journeys within and out of Africa 60,000 years ago, with a molecular biologist to synthesize a DNA strand made from a sequence randomly generated by museum visitors, and with botanists in participatory eco-art projects that address global climate change by reforesting mangroves, native trees, and wildflowers.


Understanding that our climate crisis is a race against the clock, I choose to double down on slow activism and build experiential processes to transform individuals. Genuinely molding participants into change agents who protect the most vulnerable of our citizens and ecosystems, these slow activists will infiltrate and improve systems, elect responsible leaders, and ultimately hold them accountable. As our social and racial inequities are further exposed, while a pandemic rages, and as our climate emergency worsens, I use art’s elasticity to work across disciplines to engage others in effectuating meaningful change in a polarized world.

Xavier Cortada
Palmetto Bay, Florida
The Underwater
Social Practice, Ecological Art

Related Topics