Ecosystems at Risk

Posted by Alex Sarian On July - 9 - 2013
Alex Sarian

Alex Sarian

Two very scary, and seemingly unrelated, things happened in 2008:   1) 100,000 nonprofits around the US (many of them arts, education, & culture based) began the slow and painful process of going out of business, and 2) the Holdridge’s toad, one of Costa Rica’s most prevalent species, was declared extinct.

Let’s talk toads first:

There are two schools of thought that explain why a species might become extinct. The first holds the environment responsible, stating that the Holdridge’s toad became extinct because of “chytridiomycosis” (look it up), a disease caused by effects of climate change. In this case, the toads were not able to evolve fast enough to adapt to the fast-changing environment around them. The second option, ironically, holds the species responsible. This popular evolutionary theory called the “Red Queen hypothesis” – named after Lewis Carroll’s character who described her country as a nation in which “it takes all the running YOU can do, to keep in the same place” – argues that species biologically increase in numbers until they reach the ‘carrying capacity’ of their environment, by which point the environment is too consumed (deteriorated) to sustain such diversity. Extinction. Scientists predict that by 2050, as a result of one of the two theories mentioned above, a full quarter of the species known to us today will be extinct. Read the rest of this entry »

500 Artists, Gardens Celebrate Florida’s 500th Birthday

Posted by Xavier Cortada On December - 17 - 2012

On Easter Sunday 1513, Ponce de Leon landed his three ships on the eastern shore of the peninsula where I live.

Claiming the land for Spain, he named the place La Florida, (for the Spanish word “flor” or flower) because of the lush landscape and because of the day the explorers arrived, Pascua florida, Easter.

As we approach the 500th anniversary of this encounter, I am working through the Florida International University College of Architecture + The Arts to develop FLOR500, a participatory art, nature, and history project that encourages participants to explore Florida’s natural wonder:

Indeed, I wanted to create an art project that allowed our inhabitants to understand the multicultural origins of our state, its fragile biodiversity, and its threatened coastlines. So I took the father of the Fountain of Youth mythology and his historic milestone as a point of departure to explore ways of rejuvenating “the Sunshine State.” Read the rest of this entry »

Creating, Collaborating, Connecting with Art, Activism, and the Internet

Posted by Xavier Cortada On December - 5 - 2012

Xavier Cortada

At the end of the last millennium, when the internet was young, I installed two webcams in my studio and invited people watching me out in cyberspace to share their ideas in a chat room. I would incorporate their views into the murals I was creating in my “webstudio.”

Back then, I was painting collaborative message murals to address important social concerns in different locations around the world (AIDS in Africa, child welfare in Bolivia, peace in Northern Ireland gangs in Philadelphia).

The collaborative murals mattered because I wanted to amplify people’s voices, share their concerns. I wanted to expand the circle of participants beyond those I could reach in person. The webcams and the webstudio were my way of trying to expand beyond geographic boundaries. Back then, I think the farthest I got from my Miami studio was Atlanta.

Since then, technology has developed to a level where online and human interaction has revolutionized communication to an extent unimaginable when I first created that early project. Art making can have exclusively online manifestation, reaching millions in space and time. It is indisputable that one can also build a sense of community online—ask Facebook.

We have even created realms where we can have second lives fully inhabit a completely virtual reality. And that is good: I find participatory art projects that engage individuals locally across communities to be address global concerns very powerful. Read the rest of this entry »

Let Art Bloom

Posted by Xavier Cortada On November - 11 - 2011

When I started out as a professional artist in the mid-1990s, I would engage others in painting collaborative murals to amplify their voices.

I would bring people together in public spaces to address important social concerns: street children in Bolivia’s main plaza; former gang members in a Northern Philly barrio; Greek and Turkish Cypriots at the UN Green Line; Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland; AIDS workers in South Africa; kids jailed in Miami’s adult prisons and psychiatric facilities, etc.

Years ago, I remember telling a journalist that I could never see myself painting flowers.

As I type this, there is still some paint on my right forearm. It’s from painting wildflowers. I guess I’m not a good fortune teller and can be a little careless when cleaning up… Read the rest of this entry »

Community-Based & Creative Strategies for Local Waterfront Revitalization

Posted by Anusha Venkataraman On November - 8 - 2011

Anusha Vankataraman

Artists and creative organizations are becoming increasingly more engaged in what is the traditional terrain of urban planners and local politicians—from local neighborhood planning, to revitalization projects, and even real estate development.

Engagement of the creative community in local planning issues not only increases the relevance of and helps to create broader bases of support for artists and arts organizations; it also ensures that the city planning policies enacted are sustainable, responsive to community needs, and perhaps more effective in the long-run.

One area of urban politics and economic development that is being tackled by creative institutions and local artists is waterfront revitalization. Because of the large public and institutional investments needed to accomplish projects of this magnitude, waterfront revitalization has typically been a city government-led effort.

However, in the face of limited public resources, citizens, grassroots organizations, and local institutions are taking the lead in re-imagining how their rivers and waterways can be used. This form of city re-development is more socially and environmentally just, equitably shared, and creatively implemented. Read the rest of this entry »