Pretty as a Picture

Artist Xavier Cortada is bringing back the mangroves

Ever wonder about those funny-looking, colorful creatures painted on the concrete posts that shoulder I-395 and I-95 through downtown Miami? Well, wonder no more: They're mangrove seedlings. In 2004 artist Xavier Cortada led volunteers from Hands on Miami in painting them on more than 30 columns.

The fact that we no longer recognize those "creatures" is precisely Cortada's point. The paintings were supposed to be a metaphorical reforestation of the area, which teemed with the trees a century ago, recalling a time before the concrete was poured.

This year Cortada launched the Reclamation Project, which runs through the conclusion of Art Basel. The idea: to make the metaphorical downtown reforestation a literal one on Miami Beach. Beginning with an exhibit at the Bass Museum of Art this past April 22 (Earth Day), the first phase of the project delivered mangrove seedlings throughout Miami Beach businesses.

The 2500 adopted seedlings will be displayed in storefronts during Basel. This coming January 20, the seedlings will be collected at Books & Books on Lincoln Road and used to reforest a portion of Key Biscayne and South Biscayne Bay. A week later, volunteers will meet at Bear Cut Preserve in Key Biscayne to plant them. A full-moon reception to thank the volunteers will close the project February 3 at the Cape Florida Lighthouse in Key Biscayne.

"The sad thing," says Cortada, "is that when we went looking for a place to plant them on Miami Beach, we couldn't find a single place where the seawalls hadn't been barricaded." However, the reclamation team is working to prepare Pine Tree Park's shoreline so that a Miami Beach reforestation can occur next year, just in time for Basel 2007.

 
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