EcoArt and EcoArtists in South Florida
Michael Singer is an award-winning artist-designer who has made major ecologically powerful contributions to urban infrastructure with such projects as the Solid Waste Transfer and Recycling Center, 1989-1993, in Phoenix, AZ, which the New York Times designated in 1993 as one of the 8 most important architectural events of the year. Here in South Florida, Singer was the chief designer for the renovation of the West Palm Beach waterfront, completed in 2011, and produced a strongly “green” design for Howard Park, an important park located at the gateway to the city, carrying out key storm water retention and treatment elements. Singer resides in Delray Beach, Palm Beach County, November thru June and Vermont, July through October. He has been a key advisor to EcoArt South Florida since its inception.
Xavier Cortada is a Miami based Cuban-American artist, attorney, and activist who has worked for nearly two decades, collaboratively, with diverse groups across the United States, Latin America, Europe and Africa to create pro-social community murals and participant-driven art projects. His public transformation into an EcoArtist began with his community engagement/EcoArt intervention The Reclamation Project in 2005. Cortada was a founding member of EcoArt South Florida’s Board of Directors, continues to serve on the organization’s Advisory Committee, and is a frequent collaborator with EcoArt SoFla’s project explorations.
Elders’ Cove in Dreher Park, West Palm Beach. The Friends of Elders’ Cove was organized by EcoArt SoFla in September, 2007, to restore, with private sector funds and volunteer labor, the first permanent EcoArt project in South Florida, designed by internationally renowned ecoartists Jackie Brookner (New York City) and Angelo Ciotti (Pittsburgh), and selected, in 2005 by Americans for the Arts as one of the “Best Public Art” projects of the year. Damaged by a combination of hurricane winds shortly after it was completed in 2004, and by several years thereafter of inappropriate and inadequate maintenance, the work was inoperative when it was “discovered” during the research preceding the launch of EcoArt SoFla in early 2007. It had languished unrecognized for its pioneering role in the history of EcoArt in South Florida.
The EcoArt design underscores the flood control and storm water retention and cleansing function of the string of natural and human-devised lakes that run down the center of 103-acre Dreher Park, West Palm Beach’s largest green space.
The park also serves as a passive public park and home to two of the city’s principal cultural/scientific educational organizations, the Palm Beach Zoo and the South Florida Science Museum. Another key aspect of the original EcoArt design for Dreher Park was to celebrate the history of the site, which, up to about 60 years ago, was one of the trading posts for the Seminoles who would paddle up through the chain of lakes now in Dreher Park, from the Everglades, to trade.
The Friends of Elders’ Cove represents among its membership neighborhood associations of citizens living next to the park, environmental advocacy organizations, cultural groups, the Parks and Recreation Department and other municipal and county organizations. The group was one of 18 recipients nationwide of a $10,000 Keep America Beautiful, Inc. THINK GREEN grant , which helped to jumpstart the restoration. The group raised nearly $50,000 to accomplish the restoration.
Since it began the restoration in 2007, the Friends of Elders’ Cove has repaired the biosculpture fountain, replanting its surfaces with water cleaning plants; cleaned up and replanted the water-cleaning wetland plantings around the edges of the lakes; restored the cypress island; and reconceived and redesigned the Choko Lochi garden as a “learning garden” featuring native and adapted plants that have had special utility or significance for waves of human inhabitants who occupied the area now known as Dreher Park. All of these restored elements were key aspects of the original EcoArt design. And the establishment of the Friends of Elders’ Cove also carries forward a key element of EcoArt…engagement of community.
EcoArt Treasure Coast artists. See website page for the Living on the Edge Exhibition which was the capstone of EcoArt SoFla’s pilot apprenticeship program. “EcoArt Treasure Coast” is the name of the pilot project. Five artists participated in the year long apprenticeship program under the supervision of master EcoArtist Betsy Damon. The Living on the Edge exhibition page provides brief descriptions of each artist’s experiments as they were documented in the exhibition in December 2010. EcoArt SoFla will provide periodic updates on the EcoArt Treasure Coast artists’ activities and projects. There are plans for traveling the exhibition as well.