Artist-in-Residence brings climate change talks to Hialeah

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With climate change conversations under way at the COP 21 Paris Talks, the discussion on global climate change may seem distant to the Hialeah community.

But, Xavier Cortada – artist-in-residence for FIU’s College of Arts & Sciences School of Environment, Society and the Arts (SEAS) and College of Architecture + The Arts (CARTA) – has brought the conversation home to South Florida with CLIMA, his solo art exhibit on climate change and sea-level rise at Hialeah’s Milander Center for Arts and Entertainment.

Cortada's "SOLAR," digital art on three solar panels

Cortada’s “SOLAR,” digital art on three solar panels. Photo courtesy of City of Hialeah.

At the opening night of the exhibit, Cortada featured numerous artistic works from his various collections on climate change and nature; the first of 12 panel discussions on topics such as climate change with experts mostly from FIU; and a screening of his Five Actions to Stop Sea Level Rise film.

CLIMA – presented by the City of Hialeah in partnership with FIU’s Sea Level Solution Center (SLSC)FIU’s SEAS, FIU’s CARTA, and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy – coincides with the 12 days of the COP 21 Paris Talks and Art Basel week in Miami, all of which began Nov. 30.

“Sea-level rise is an important issue and it’s important to get all sectors of the community involved and to provide them with an opportunity to ask questions and engage with the issue,” said Tiffany Troxler, director of FIU’s SLSC and one of the night’s panelist.

Hialeah, an originally swampy area, is especially vulnerable to inland flooding and will be drastically affected by global climate change and sea-level rise; only a four-foot rise in the sea-level will flood 70 percent of Hialeah’s population.

Cortada's graphite drawings

Cortada’s graphite drawings. Photo courtesy of City of Hialeah.

One of the panelists and chair of FIU’s Department of Earth and Environment René Price referred to a chart on sea-level rise in South Florida created by South Florida’s four government counties that predicts sea levels could rise approximately 6 to 10 inches by 2030 or 1 foot to almost 2 feet or even greater by 2060.

Price and Executive Director of FIU’s SEAS Evelyn Gaiser also explained how salt-water intrusion can impact Hialeah. Salt-water seeps into the porous underground rock that houses the water supplies, and it pushes fresh water to the surface, effectively contaminating and threatening Hialeah’s fresh water supply.

“We all require water to live,” Gaiser said discussing the Everglades Restoration Plan, which aims to bring freshwater back to the Everglades as one of the best solutions to alleviate salt-water intrusion.

Rehydrating the Everglades, which is a major source of water for most of South Florida, will help replenish Hialeah’s fresh water supply and restore the biodiversity in the Everglades, such as mangroves.

CLIMA Panel Speakers receive recognition from City of Hialeah Major Carlos Hernandez and Xavier Cortada. From left to right Major Hernandez, Cortada, Tiffany Troxler, Juan Carlos Espinosa, Rene Price, Evelyn Gaiser, and Jane Gilbert

From left to right: Mayor Carlos Hernandez, Xavier Cortada, Tiffany Troxler, Juan Carlos Espinosa, Rene Price, Evelyn Gaiser and Jane Gilbert. Photo courtesy of City of Hialeah.


Troxler said that even though it may sound like bad news that human activity has affected climate change in a negative way, “it’s also good news because if we got ourselves into this mess, we can get ourselves out of this mess. And that is where the solutions start.”

“As Paris talks, Hialeah acts,” Cortada said.

After watching the panel discussion and the ensuing Q&A session with audience members, he added, “this is what art is. It’s real. It’s raw.”

The CLIMA exhibit will run until Jan. 29, 2016.

Panelist Speakers for CLIMA Day 1

  • Tiffany Troxler, director of FIU’s Sea Level Solutions Center (SLSC)
  • Evelyn Gaiser, executive director of FIU’s School of Environment, Arts and Society (SEAS)
  • Juan Carlos Espinosa, associate dean of FIU Honors College
  • Jane Gilbert, CEO of integrated Solutions Miami
  • René Price, chairperson and professor in FIU’s Department of Earth and Environment

For more information on CLIMA, visit here.

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