Miami-Dade County

Can public art make people in Miami-Dade care about climate change?

Misael Soto - Flood relief

SEA LEVEL RISE, commissioned by Miami-Dade Art in Public Places and the John & James L. Knight Foundation, provides opportunities for selected artists to create temporary, site-specific artworks that explore this climate change crisis during 2017-
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SEA LEVEL RISE, commissioned by Miami-Dade Art in Public Places and the John & James L. Knight Foundation, provides opportunities for selected artists to create temporary, site-specific artworks that explore this climate change crisis during 2017-

If all goes well, Miami-Dade County residents could see more art in their communities, and it’ll all be focused on climate change.

The county is one of 14 finalists for the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge, which will award at least three winning cities up to $1 million to support a series of themed art installations. Miami-Dade hopes its proposal for “Climate Sync Miami” will take home the prize money in October.

“We certainly are hoping it’s a way to draw attention to climate change and how it will practically affect people day to day,” said Amanda Sanfilippo, curator for art in public places.

Miami-Dade, one of the communities most at risk from rising seas, is no stranger to public art focused on climate change.

In 2017, the county’s Art in Public Places department had a year-long exhibit called SEA LEVEL RISE focused on the effects of rising seas on the vulnerable coastal community. One memorable installation involved a series of pumps — the kind that keep Miami Beach’s streets dry — in Miami’s Museum Park to suck in water from Biscayne Bay and spray it back into the water in a fountain-type display.

“We wanted to really amplify and build upon what we did there,” said Sanfilippo.

If Miami-Dade wins, the plan is to create eight to 12 installations in 10 spots (parks, libraries or transportation locations) throughout the county for 18 months. Those installations could be semi-permanent, like the pump installation, or more temporary, like an event or performance.

Sanfilippo said her team focused on the “important civic issue” of climate change as a topic because it’s part of the city’s mission to brand itself as resilient and ready to weather the incoming changes as seas rise and climate changes.

She was quick to note that the art would also serve to “challenge misinformation” about climate change and would have a positive spin on addressing the challenges that lie ahead.

“We don’t want to discourage investment in our area in the real estate community,” she said. “But we want to be prepared.”

The county isn’t the only municipality in South Florida looking at art as a way to interest residents in climate change. Miami Beach has an Art in Public Life resident, visual artist Miseal Soto.

Soto, the artist behind the pump installation at Museum Park, is embedded with the city and plans to produce public art about sea level rise.

“This residency is a way for me, an artist, to get into the room with those who are making the decisions that affect people on the ground daily and contribute in multiple ways, primarily through my art,” Soto said in a press release from the city.

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