ARTicle — 30 November 2018
Environmental project makes sea rise visible

By Greg Carannante

City & Shore Magazine

One of the most ambitious projects during Art Basel week may be a mashup of artistic impact and environmental awareness that intends to transform parts of the Miami area into an eye-opening, drive-by exhibition.

 Underwater HOA, an interactive project to make sea-level rise visible, is the brainchild of Xavier Cortada. The environmental artist is launching the new “homeowners association” from his tiny Village of Pinecrest, about a 40-minute drive south of the major Miami Beach art exposition Dec. 3-9.

During the week, Cortada will begin urging village and county residents to join his literally grassroots exhibit — by sticking “underwater markers” into the grass of their front yards. About 6,000 markers, designed by Cortada, are numbered from 0 to 17 to depict how many feet of melting glacial water needs to rise before that particular property is underwater. He has also been encouraging residents throughout the county to transform their political lawn signs into markers. Participants can visit to learn the exact sea-level-rise elevation for their property.

“We are making the invisible visible,” says Cortada, a National Science Foundation fellow and Pinecrest Gardens artist-in-residence. “The underlying goal with the Underwater HOA is to educate and engage citizens who will take matters into their own hands instead of the current situation, which is a state of confusion about sea-level rise. We want to lead citizens to become curious, understand the financial and physical consequences of this critical issue and create a sense of urgency.”

The issue takes on heightened visibility during Art Basel week, when underwater markers are installed along a 2.5-mile stretch of Killian Drive, Pinecrest’s main thoroughfare. Also, high-school students across Miami-Dade County are collaborating with Cortada to create markers to display in their front yards, while other students are painting a mural of markers on major village intersections.

The backgrounds for Cortada’s markers are from his series of Antarctic Ice Paintings, created in Antarctica with actual melted arctic ice. An exhibit of the 60, never-before-seen paintings of global coastlines is at Hibiscus Gallery in Pinecrest Gardens through Jan. 13.

“To date, the community at-large has been receptive to the idea,” says the artist, recently named chairman of the Miami-Dade County Cultural Arts Council. “The way I will determine the success of this project is if I have a group of 25 educated and engaged citizens with their sleeves rolled up and ready to carry this banner forward at the first Underwater Homeowners Association meeting at Pinecrest Gardens on Jan. 9, 2019.”

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