Environmental Art

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Animating Democracy
Americans for the Arts


A Working Guide to the Landscape of Arts for Change
by Sam Bower

From an environmental perspective, we are living in transitional times; the practices we engage in now have far-reaching implications for the survival of the earth and all its life forms. “Environmental Art” is an umbrella term for a wide range of work that helps improve our relationship with the natural world. Art provides a lens through which to explore aspects of society–from urban food production, climate policy, watershed management, and transportation infrastructure to childhood education and clothing design–from an ecological perspective. This paper provides a brief history and salient examples of projects and practices in this field over the last several decades. Although primarily meant to provide a U.S. perspective of the Environmental Art movement, all of the work cited exists within a networked global system characterized by the rapid exchange of ideas.

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Excerpt from pages 14-15:
The Reclamation Project is an exceptional participatory mangrove restoration project  launched by Miami artist Xavier Cortada in 2006.  At its most basic level, according to the artist, “it explores our ability to coexist with the natural world.” With these modest ambitions as its starting point, the project succeeds by making reforestation so compellingly beautiful, fun, and engaging that people want to see it continue. The artwork involves the annual collection of mangrove propagules in coastal areas with the help of volunteers. The plant material is then exhibited in long rows of clear waterfilled cups suction-cupped to windows and walls in local museums, schools, businesses, and other public spaces. The propagules are nurtured into seedlings and then planted along coastal areas with the help of additional volunteers as part of an ongoing reforestation program. The Reclamation Project proved so popular that the Miami Science Museum committed to managing the coastal reforestation component and hosting a permanent ongoing exhibit of 1,100 mangrove seedlings in their facility. A Foundation was also formed to support additional installations in neighboring counties and communities.  
Xavier Cortada’s

Xavier Cortada’s “The Reclamation Project: Installation at the Verge Art Fair, Miami Beach, FL,” 2009 (curated by Amy Lipton, ecoartspace).  
Annually, Reclamation Project volunteers collect mangrove propagules in coastal areas and distribute them across the community, symbolically “reclaiming” urban areas that once flourished with mangrove forests. The propagules are then exhibited in clear, water-filled cups, nurtured into seedlings, and eventually planted along coastal areas to create new habitats above and below the water line.