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 »

Reclaiming Art

Posted by Xavier Cortada On November - 9 - 2011

Xavier Cortada

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. We somehow forget that art is theirs; that for a very long time now people have intuitively used it to better connect with one another.

Sixty-thousand years ago, our deep ancestors in Africa began a slow-motion journey that populated that continent and the rest of our planet. Responding to nature, they hunted and gathered as they made their way. Along their migration through the land, some took to growing their own food and settled. Others continued on their path until they found a place to call home.

At each stop, they worked communally to build their society. They developed language and customs. They passed these on through rituals and stories. We see this in the artifacts archeology reveals to us today. They developed their culture in the context of their land. Grounded by nature, they built community.

Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost that sense of place, that connection to each other and the natural world. I use my art to try to help find our way.

In 2006, I developed the Reclamation Project — an eco-art intervention that invited my fellow South Floridians to engage in protecting their coastal ecosystem. Read the rest of this entry »