Xavier Cortada engages FIU students in FLOR500, participatory art and history project


Xavier Cortada, College of Architecture + The Arts Artist-in-Residence will celebrate FLOR500 on August 28th at the FIU Graham Center Art Gallery. FLOR500 is a participatory art, nature, and history project created by the Miami artist to commemorate Florida’s quincentennial in 2013. The project marks the important moment when the history of Florida changed forever, and it gives us a glimpse of what its landscape was like 500 years ago.

The FIU-based project was a massive multi-year, state-wide undertaking:  A team of scientists selected 500 native flowers – the same ones that grew in Florida when Juan Ponce de Leon landed in 1513 and named it “La Florida” (from “flor,” the Spanish word for flower).  500 artists were then invited to portray those flowers. FIU alumni and faculty were among the Floridians who depicted the Florida native wildflowers in any medium they chose.

FLOR500 invited individuals, schools and libraries from across the state’s 67 counties to participate. Each was instructed to plant a wildflower garden and dedicate the garden to one of 500 important Floridians selected by a team of historians.

Cortada commits himself to eco-art projects that engage community and expose human impact on the environment. By involving FIU students and faculty in FLOR500, he has shared with them knowledge and awareness of Florida’s rich, ecological history.  Importantly, this particular project helped students and other participants develop skills in art, history, and nature. (Source: www.flor500.com)  

FLOR497 by Gretchen Scharnagl, Full-Time Instructor of The College of Architecture + the Arts (Art + Art History Department) and the Honors College
FLOR497 by Gretchen Scharnagl, Full-Time Instructor of The College of Architecture + the Arts (Art + Art History Department) and the Honors College

Several hundred students in the FIU Department of Communication Arts and the Department of Art + Art History joined others in planting wildflower gardens. Cortada presented FLOR500 to the students of Dr. Steve Schoen, Assistant Professor in FIU Communication Arts, and Art + Art History students during Fall 2013 and Spring 2014.  These FIU students eagerly took up the task of supporting Florida’s biodiversity.

“After planting their garden,” said Cortada, “participants uploaded the following to FLOR500.com: a 250-word essay, a portrait of the person they have been assigned, pictures documenting the planting of the garden, [and] a picture of the art object or a sign describing the dedication.”

These works are on display at FIU Graham Center Art Gallery: 11200 SW 8 Street, GC 215, Modesto A. Maidique Campus, Miami, FL 33199.  The exhibition will run until Thursday, September 11th, 2014.

For more information, please contact Gabrielle Wood, Xavier Cortada Participatory Art Projects Coordinator, at flor500@fiu.edu.


This article was written with the help of Gabrielle Wood, Xavier Cortada Participatory Art Projects Coordinator and Xavier Cortada.

All images are provided courtesy of Xavier Cortada and Gabrielle Wood.

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