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About the Project: South Florida Ecoartists
SFEAP header


August 2008
Volume 1, No.2
Hello Again!!

In this newsletter I go into some background on SFEAP, Inc.'s chosen approach to bringing ecoart to South Florida. We have an ambitious goal--to catalyze the development of South Florida as a major center for ecoart. To do this, a vibrant (and substantial) community of ecoartists will be needed. Click here to access a description of SFEAP's approach to building this community.

We are very interested in hearing from YOU if you are part of, or know of, an organization that would like to help "grow our own" ecoartists in the South Florida region. So please get in touch if you do! Together we can make South Florida THE place people will look to for innovative melding of art with environmental advocacy and stewardship!

Thanks for your interest and enthusiasm! Please keep in touch and let us know what you think of our mission, goals and how we hope to achieve them.

All the best,

Mary Jo Aagerstoun
Founder/President, SFEAP, Inc.


"Growing our own" Ecoartists in South Florida

It is undeniable that art and culture are inadequately integrated into sustainability discourse and in
itiatives. SFEAP believes art and culture must be integrated into sustainability discourse and initiatives because art is a form of knowledge and we need all forms of knowledge to address the environmental challenges ahead of us. While there is a growing, thriving movement of artists worldwide bringing their artistic talents and imagination to the struggle for appropriate environmental stewardship, the direct engagement of art with threats to the environment is still very marginal in most places. The situation in South Florida is no different than everywhere else.

On the SFEAP website home page, we say very clearly that our organization "honors all forms of art that seek to raise awareness about environmental degradation, and to encourage/spark responsible public action to address it." Like all general philosophy statements, it is very open to individual interpretation. This is intentional. SFEAP knows we are in a big tent,

Diagram created by Sam Bower, greenmuseum

and we like it that way. Anything and everything that engages creative imaginations to get people moving to make positive change toward responsible environmental stewardship is A-OK with us.

SFEAP also believes that in particular environmentally-threatened situations, like the one we face here in South Florida, a very focused approach to engaging art with environmental problems is needed. And we believe that focused approach to integrating art and sustainability is ECOART

I have heard (but not seen hard proof) that here on the flat limestone and sandy edges of the languid (and severely shrunken) Everglades on one side and the chilly, fast moving Gulf Stream on the other, there are more environmental activist organizations per capita than anywhere else. It is certain that, whatever its actual size, Florida's environmental advocacy community has a strong voice and some formidable legal and political muscle. We are also fortunate to have here many scientific and governmental organizations bringing innovative techniques and knowledge to our environmental problems.

What South Florida seems not to have is a large, organized community of artists who are plying their creative minds and skills to "raise awareness about environmental degradation" and "encourage public action to address it." There is a small cote
rie of exciting artists living and working here in South Florida who do focus their work on Florida's unique Butcherenvironment and who are famously generous, lending their works to fundraisers for the very necessary legal and political activist work, and to support cutting edge scientific investigation. Like the great nature photographer Clyde Butcherwhose silver-toned, nostalgic images of the remaining majestic landscapes of the Everglades are, to my eye, both powerful and melancholy. But where are the South Florida-resident artists creating work that actively and directly impacts environmental problems, outside in urban environments and natural areas alike, where they are physically occurring? SFEAP wants to both find and develop same.

When I began m
goldsworthyy research on environmentally-engaged art in South Florida back in 2005, I started by interviewing some of the environmental activists as well as the cultural mavens in my immediate vicinity. To a person, when I asked if they knew of any artists working onchristo/in the environment, they would often ask if I knew the work of Andy Goldsworthy and Christo and Jeanne Claude  and sometimes they would ask if I meant SmithsonRobert Smithson. These artists are justifiably lauded for their powerful work in the environment. But it does not directly impact dangerous environmental threats.

Early in my research I was providentially introduced to Michael Singer of Delray Beach who knew what I was talking about because he was actively doing what I was looking for!! S
chin revival fieldome of the first names that flew out of his mouth when we met wereMel Chin and Helen and Newton Harrison. Michael clearly knows his peers and colleagues!

Michael Singer has been doing environmentally sensitive work as both a fine artist (sculpture) and a designer for decades. His forte is "greening" the built environment and infrastructure, and he has brought his considerable talents to bear here in South Florida on helping Whole Foods "green" their buildings-artfully-as well as the contexts in which they place them (in South Florida that would be strip and other malls!);biosculpture and is currently helping the city of West Palm Beach in completely rethinking (with a green perspective) its major amenity--its waterfront.

But neither Michael nor I knew when we first met about a young Cuban-American in Miami who was emerging as an ecoartist by working directly with plant material--mangrove seedlings.Xavier Cortada has always been fascinated by the strange trees that thrive in salty water and provide a rich environment and shelter for marine life. And, as a former community organizer and lawyer, as well as a practicing fine artist (painter and muralist) he saw an opportunity to raise consciousness and help endangered Biscayne Bay mangrove ecologies directly. Now, nearly three years after he launched his first Reclamation Project onlincoln road Miami Beach's Lincoln Road during the annual art hoopla of Art Basel Miami Beach in 2006, he has carried his metaphor/intervention strategy of reclaiming land for nature to both the north and south poles, along the coast of Biscayne Bay, in Miamians front yards and from his new base as artist in residence at the Miami Science Museum.

We are extremely fortunate here in South Florida to have these two very talented artists whose work fits to a "T"SFEAP's definition of "ecoart." But, as talented as they are, these two ecoartists (in a land where increasingly endangered water resources as well as plant and animal species are in need of serious intervention), are not sufficient, in SFEAP's opinion.

And so, SFEAP will soon be launching ourprogram to integrate ecoart apprenticeships into existing institutions and organizations here in South Florida. These SFEAP-cosponsored apprenticeships will recruit professional South Florida-resident artists who wish to consider ecoart as a new creative direction. Michael and Xavier will be key to this effort, as will--over the years to come--many experienced and talented ecoartists from elsewhere, who will spend up to two years (off and on) in residence among us, helping to introduce our artists to ecoart in hands-on residency environments.

Doclick here if you are interested in seeing an outline of the key elements of SFEAP's soon-to-be-implemented ecoart residency-apprenticeship program. And do contact us if your organization would like to explore partnership with SFEAP in developing an ecoart residency. And please forward this newsletter to any group or organization you believe might be interested in such a partnership, especially if they can bring funding or other resources to the table.

Oh, and yes--Ecoart is not a synonym for environmental art, or vice versa. There is quite a nice exegesis on the website on SFEAP's definition of ecoart as well as a discussion of ecoart's roots and current status, what distinguishes it from environmental art, and our argument for why South Florida needs ecoart. We hope you will take a look, and let us know what you think of SFEAP's mission to grow our own ecoartists, and catalyze the development of South Florida as a vibrant center for ecoart!!--MJA

 2004 - 2013


Xavier Cortada's participatory art practice is based at Florida International University.

FIU College of Architecture + The Arts

Xavier Cortada
FIU College of Architecture + The Arts
Miami Beach Urban Studios
420 Lincoln Road, Suite 440
Miami Beach, FL 33139

 Reclamation Project 



Native Flags

The Reclamation Project and Native Flags are participatory eco-art projects by FIU College of Architecture + The Arts Artist-in-Residence Xavier Cortada.  

In South Florida, they are presented in coordination with our project partners:

FIU Office of University Sustainabiity
MDC Earth Ethics Institute

Copyright 2006-2013 
Xavier Cortada