The Underwater: Using Art to Engage Communities Around Climate Change

Apr 4, 2024, 12:00 pm1:15 pm



Event Description

About the Talk:

In "The Underwater: Using Art to Engage Communities Around Climate Action," Xavier Cortada champions a novel approach to climate advocacy in Florida, focusing on the intersection of art and environmental activism. Central to Cortada's work is "The Underwater" project, which employs yard signs depicting the elevation above sea level of individual homes. This initiative directly confronts the issue of sea level rise, turning abstract environmental data into a compelling visual narrative that speaks to the personal stakes of each resident. By situating these signs across neighborhoods, Cortada not only highlights Florida's vulnerability but also galvanizes community action and dialogue around climate change. This article underlines the power of participatory art to bridge the gap between personal experience and environmental advocacy, showcasing how creative expression can foster a sense of urgency and collective responsibility towards addressing our climate crisis.

The Underwater,” Xavier Cortada's award-winning socially engaged art project sparks widespread conversation and action around sea level rise. It is being implemented by the Cortada Foundation and is the subject of a TED Talk by the artist and the following art awards Creative Capital 2022 AwardeeOolite Ellies 2023 Creator Award, and Miami-Dade Cultural Affairs Department Arts Resilient 305 Prize art awards. Major supporters include the Knight Foundation and the University of Miami Laboratory for Integrated Knowledge (U-LINK)‘s On the Move: Climate Migration and Retreat in South Florida, the Caribbean, and Beyond interdisciplinary research team (where he serves as one of four principal investigators).

About the Speaker:

Xavier Cortada is a Cuban-American artist working across disciplines to engage communities. His work intends to generate awareness and action around climate change, sea level rise, and biodiversity loss. Based in Miami, he has created art at the North and South poles to address environmental concerns at every point in between, as well as across 6 continents, including more than 150 public artworks, installations, collaborative murals and socially engaged projects.

Cortada serves as Professor of Practice at the University of Miami Department of Art and Art History (with secondary appointments in the university’s Miller School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics and School of Law), and as Princeton University Center for Migration and Development Reseach Associate.  Cortada also serves as Artist-in-Residence at Pinecrest Gardens, where his studio, gallery, and socially engaged art practice are based. He was recently appointed by Mayor Daniella Levine Cava to serve as the inaugural Artist-in-Residence for Miami-Dade County.


  • The Program in American Studies
  • Effron Center for the Study of America