The Reclamation Project is an on-going, community-driven, eco-art intervention first introduced in 2006. Mangroves began to appear as a central theme in Cortada’s work as early as 2003 with a series of commissioned mural-sized paintings, Florida Mangrove being notable for its inclusion in the Florida State Capitol Building.
While mangroves had been present in his work prior to the Reclamation Project, the destruction of mangrove forests across the Florida Keys in 2006 inspired Cortada to work directly with the plant in an effort to protect and reclaim the mangrove throughout South Florida. Originally initiated as a way of reforesting mangroves in the areas they had been displaced from, Cortada soon saw the impossibility of this plan as the young mangroves he wished to plant would not survive if planted at the original location. This led way to an evolution in the process, the Reclamation Project becoming an effort to raise awareness about the destruction of mangrove forests as well as taking action to reforest.
The Reclamation Project lives on today through the Frost Science Museum’s “Museum Volunteers for the Environment” (MUVE) initiative. MUVE is a volunteer-based habitat restoration project that uses social media, eco-art and science exhibits to engage local residents in restoring coastal environments that once thrived in Miami. In 2007, Cortada partnered with Frost Science to create a Reclamation Project exhibition of 1,110 seedlings on a wall at the museum’s Wildlife Center in Coconut Grove. This installation and the scores of volunteers engaged in eco-art gave birth to MUVE.