I travelled to Antarctica in 2006 as a National Science Foundation (NSF) Antarctic Artist and Writers Program fellow. There, I created a series of works on paper by melting ice samples scientists gave me from their research on how human impacts on global climate are melting the Antarctic glaciers.
“Underwater HOA” depicts South Florida’s vulnerability to those melting glaciers: The Village of Pinecrest, Florida will encourage its residents to install an “Underwater HOA” yard sign (similar to the 18” x 24” yard signs realtors use to sell houses) on their front lawn during the first week of December 2018. The yard sign will show how many feet of melting glacial water must rise before their property is underwater. I numbered each yard sign from 0 to 17 feet, the land elevation range for the 6,000 houses in this upscale village south of downtown Miami. The signs’ backdrop show the watercolor paintings I made in Antarctica by melting ice from the very glaciers that threaten to melt and drown Miami.
By mapping the crisis to come, I make the invisible visible. Block by block, house by house, neighbor by neighbor, I want to make the future impact of sea level rise something no longer possible to ignore.
My socially-engaged environmental art practice aims to help address the problem at hand: As part of the effort, I will charter a homeowner’s association where members are organized by property elevation–the most important metric any coastal community need consider. By asking participants to join Underwater HOA, www.underwaterHOA.com, I engage my neighbors as problem-solvers who will learn together and work together now to plan and better prepare (themselves and their heirs) for the chaos to come.
(Underwater HOA official meeting notice: Our inaugural meeting is scheduled for January 9, 2019 at 7 pm at Xavier Cortada’s studio in Pinecrest Gardens. We will elect officers and ratify the by-laws. One vote per household. Only individuals bringing picture IDs and proof of elevation will be allowed to vote.)
What is Underwater HOA?
Underwater HOA is a participatory public art project by acclaimed environmental artist Xavier Cortada, who was recently one of 12 artists featured on climate change in the New York Times and who collaborates with scientists from Antarctica as part of his involvement with the McMurdo Dry Valleys LTER (Long Term Ecological Research) project. The project is in collaboration with the Village of Pinecrest. The project has many components and is designed to create awareness about rising sea levels, not just in Pinecrest, but also across the globe. Additionally, the goal of Underwater HOA is to engage citizens to become problem-solvers while there is still time to prepare for this potential crisis.
When will this project take place?
Starting November 8, 2018, and through January 13, 2019, artist Xavier Cortada will debut 60 untitled, never-seen-before Antarctic Ice Paintings during an exhibit called “Antarctic Ice Paintings: Global Coastlines and Underwater HOA” in the Hibiscus Gallery at Pinecrest Gardens. The paintings represent 60 coastal communities threatened by sea-level rise. Cortada created the series over a decade ago while in Antarctica on a National Science Foundation Antarctic Artists and Writers Program fellowship and learned from scientists “that the very Antarctic ice I was using for my work threatens to drown my city.”
This exhibit also serves as the launch for Underwater HOA. Cortada will encourage Pinecrest’s 6,000 households to join a newly formed Underwater Homeowners Association and temporarily place elevation “markers” in their front yards during the week of December 2-9, 2018; coinciding with Art Basel Miami. One of the Village’s main thoroughfare, Killian Drive, between US 1 and Red Road, will also feature the “markers” along the 2.5-mile stretch to show the gradual elevation changes from one end of the Village to the next. Additionally, Cortada is working with local private and public high school students to map the elevation of four intersections along Killian Drive by painting markers on the roadway.
Why is this taking place during Art Basel?
The project coincides with Art Basel Miami when the focus of the art world will be on Miami to bring attention to this important issue. Several neighboring communities are also collaborating with artists on climate change installations including Miami Beach and Wynwood.
What are the “Underwater Markers?”
The “Markers” were artistically created by Cortada using his Antarctic Ice Paintings in the background and are numbered to represent the elevation range for the 6,000 households in Pinecrest. Each number depicts how many feet of melting glacial water needs to rise before the property is under water.
How do I get a “Marker” for my yard?
The elevation “Markers” will be distributed at Pinecrest Gardens, at both the Farmer’s Market and the Hibiscus Gallery, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, December 2nd. If you are unable to attend, you can request one online.
Do I have to place an elevation “Marker” in my yard?
While we encourage Pinecrest residents to be a part of this participatory public art project, it is completely voluntary and temporary, lasting only one week during Art Basel Miami. The goal is to create awareness around rising sea levels and to engage Pinecrest citizens to become problem-solvers.
Is this going to affect my property values?
Property values, insurance rates and the ability to get mortgages will not be affected positively or negatively by this art project. It is no secret that South Florida and coastal communities around the globe are impacted by climate change. The public can easily research projected sea level rise elevations for their properties by visiting websites such as FIU’s citizeneyes.org/app. This information is readily available and known by potential home buyers, as it directly relates to insurance.
How is this project being funded?
The funding for this project is part of the Village’s cultural arts program for Pinecrest Gardens and is one of many art initiatives undertaken each year by South Florida’s Cultural Arts Park.
Additionally, Cortada has established partnerships with the University of Miami’s Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy and the Florida International University’s Sea Level Solutions Center. Ygrene, a national leader in residential and commercial clean energy financing, is sponsoring the markers.
What does this mean for the Village of Pinecrest?
The rising seas are coming unless humans take drastic and decisive actions in the next decade. Fortunately, the Village is less vulnerable than other parts of Miami-Dade County because a large area of Pinecrest is on a ridge and therefore many properties are elevated 8 to 10 feet. And because the Pinecrest community is having these important conversations and planning for the future now, Pinecrest will be much better off than other communities that choose to ignore the issue.
How serious is the issue of sea level rise?
In October 2018, the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change issued a dire report [PDF]. Models built by the scientists show that at our current rate, the atmosphere will warm as much as 1.5 degrees Celsius, leading to a dystopian future of food shortages, wildfires, extreme winters, a mass die-off of coral reefs and more – as soon as 2040.
Are any of the project events coming up open to the public?
Yes, a number of public events will take place as part of the Underwater HOA project and participation is encouraged.
Thursday, November 8, 2018 from 7 to 10 p.m. – “The Antarctic Ice Paintings | Global Coastlines and Underwater HOA” exhibit to debut in the Hibiscus Gallery at Pinecrest Gardens. Exhibit to run from November 8 – January 13. At this exhibit, the artist will showcase 60 untitled, never seen before paintings he created while in Antarctica on a National Science Foundation Antarctic Artists and Writers fellowship.
Thursday, November 29, 2018 from 6:30 to 10 p.m. – Pinecrest Gardens, Village of Pinecrest and Xavier Cortada to host reception where Pinecrest Mayor will lead General Consuls (or their designee) in randomly naming the 60 Antarctic Ice Paintings after each of their respective global coastal cities. Held in the Hibiscus Gallery at Pinecrest Gardens.
Sunday, December 2, 2018 from 10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. – Launch of Underwater HOA participatory art project with Pinecrest residents. Each resident will be able to obtain elevation markers artistically designed by Cortada to place in their front lawns during Art Basel Miami. Pick up markers at Pinecrest Gardens.
December 2-9, 2018 during Art Basel: Residents are encouraged to place elevation markers in their front yard; the Village of Pinecrest will also place markers on Killian Drive.
Wednesday, January 9, 2019 at 7 p.m. – Launch of the Underwater HOA educational series at Pinecrest Gardens.