Miami Herbert Alum Artist Xavier Cortada launches Cortada Foundation

Alumni Spotlight

Artist and University of Miami Triple Alum Xavier Cortada Channels Entrepreneurship with Launch of Foundation

Miami artist Xavier Cortada received a graduate degree from the Miami Herbert Business School in 1991 and has since used the skills he learned there, along with those he gathered as an undergrad (BA 1986) and law student (JD 1991) to address Miami’s most pressing concerns. Cortada is an internationally acclaimed environmental artist who has created more than 150 public artworks, installations, collaborative murals and socially engaged projects across six continents – including climate art installations at the North and South Poles and commissions for the White House and the World Bank. His art is in the permanent collections of the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), the Whatcom Museum and the Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum, among others.

Xavier Cortada, “Underwater HOA Elevation Drive: 9,” paint on asphault, 2018.

Despite Cortada’s many achievements through the years, his most celebrated work does not live within a museum or gallery, but rather within his community. Initiatives such as the Reclamation Project, Native Flags, and Underwater HOA have engaged tens of thousands of South Floridians in addressing critical environmental concerns and have reached hundreds of thousands around the world through international media coverage. As a socially engaged artist, Cortada creates experiential activities that pique participants’ curiosity, instill a sense of responsibility, and ultimately encourage further exploration into important issues.

To amplify the impact of his life work and find creative ways to help Miami-Dade County residents plan for a future with rising seas, strengthened hurricanes, and extreme heat, Cortada has launched the Xavier Cortada Foundation. Through this Florida-based non-profit foundation, Cortada volunteers his time and resources to use arts elasticity to educate and engage the public in learning about and addressing community, educational, environmental, scientific, legal, health, and social concerns.

“As a social entrepreneur, Cortada has spent decades nurturing organizational and institutional partnerships, including schools, libraries, parks, businesses, non-profit & civic organizations, and municipalities,” said Adam Roberti, the foundation’s executive director and University of Miami double alumnus. “The foundation will continue to use this collaborative approach to grow the artist’s projects as it engages community members to work and learn together to make ours a more just, loving and beautiful world.”

Locally, the Xavier Cortada Foundation’s interns, all of whom are University of Miami undergraduate and graduate students, are engaging visitors of the Pinecrest Gardens Farmers Market every Sunday with participatory art projects such as Seahorse Society, Endangered World, and Flower Force. These same students are also implementing Cortada’s Plan(T) project in local schools through presentations and installations of mangrove propagules, with the goal of helping each school’s families plan and plant for a future with saltwater intrusion into the Biscayne Aquifer.

During its inaugural year, the foundation is also partnering with Cortada’s alma maters, Miami Senior High School and the University of Miami, to initiate the artist’s newest socially engaged art project – The Underwater. By working with student organizations and having interns visit every science and art class at Miami High, thousands of students, teachers, and family members in Little Havana will learn about their community’s vulnerability to climate change, create an “Underwater Marker” with their home’s specific elevation above sea level, and determine how they want to get involved in pursuing equitable mitigation and adaptation measures at local, state, and federal levels.

“Success is not just about building wealth, it’s about building community,” said Cortada. “Through my foundation I want to use the power of art to help Miamians build a better future.”

Cortada serves as Professor of Practice at the University of Miami with appointments in the Department of Art and Art History, Miller School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics, and School of Law. Through his social practice he has created peace murals in Cyprus and Northern Ireland, child welfare murals in Bolivia and Panama, AIDS murals in Switzerland and South Africa, juvenile justice murals and projects in Miami and Philadelphia, and eco-art projects in Taiwan, Hawaii, and Holland.

Xavier Cortada, “The Four Seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall,” digital tapestry/sublimation dye on fabric, 12′ x 7′, 2018. (University of Miami Miami Herbert Business School, Coral Gables, FL)

Dean Quelch commissioned Cortada to create a permanent installation at the Miami Herbert Business School, The Four Seasons, in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the MBA program in 2018. The four tapestries include business and seasonal data obtained in collaboration with MBS students, and suggest the value of applying data analytics to find innovative and sustainable solutions for the world’s environmental challenges.

“I’m extremely proud to see my alma mater not only launch a Masters in Sustainable Business, but be a role model for incorporating stewardship and sustainability into its programs,” stated Cortada. “I’m grateful for the time I spent at the Miami Herbert Business School and I’m excited to see how the leaders that are shaped there shape the world.”

Learn more about the Xavier Cortada Foundation at