From the Black communities that called the park home, to a Seminole canoe carver working today, AIRIE artists uncovered stories of purpose, place and lineage in Passages.
Over the course of a year, AIRIE’s resident artists explored the people and stories of the Everglades, from the Black communities that called the park home in the early 20th century to a modern-day canoe carver who upholds a generational tradition. On Jan. 28, a new exhibition of the resident artists’ work will reveal the connections AIRIE fellows found or created in the Everglades, fomenting a sense of purpose, place and lineage.
“Passages at the Nest,” presented by Build McKenzie and sponsored by Friends of the Everglades, includes the work of some of the 2022 fellows of AIRIE (Artists in Residence in the Everglades), a 20-year old program that offers one-month artist residencies in the park. In 2022, the residents, mostly artists of color, were asked to respond to a prompt: How can we make the outdoors a space of belonging for all?
“The majority of these artists had never had an interaction with The Everglades. And yet, in each piece, the artist has reimagined the stories we think belong to this space. I think that’s something very unique,” said Cornelius Tulloch, AIRIE’s creative director who curated the exhibition. “I hope it makes people more curious about The Everglades and the diversity of stories that lie there.”
Participating artists include Arsimmer McCoy, Francisco Masó, Kunya Rowley, Lola Flash, M. Carmen Lane, Ania Freer and Tulloch. An opening reception will take place at 1 p.m. Jan. 28, 2023, including a discussion with Cornelius Tulloch and participating artists about their work, in conversation with Dejha Carrington co-founder of Commissioner. The exhibition will be on display at the Nest Gallery throughout 2023 in Everglades National Park, 40001 State Hwy 9336, Homestead. RSVP online.
“Art can play a powerful role to re-connect communities to the natural world,” said Evette Alexander, AIRIE’s executive director. “At a time when the Urban Development Boundary is back in debate, AIRIE artists are uplifting stories that celebrate the longstanding connections our many communities have to the greater Everglades, so we can better protect, celebrate and enjoy this unique natural heritage together.”
The artist’s work, digital versions of which were included in an immersive exhibition that debuted during Miami Art Week, contemplates a range of subjects. For example:
Francisco Maso explored the stories of the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Depression-era job corps, which sent African-Americans deep into the Everglades to remove an indigenous cotton plant thought to ruin the domestic crop, despite the historical significance the assignment reflected of enslaved African-Americans forced to pick cotton in the American south. Maso developed pigments from native plants in the area where the Corps members worked, inspired by the story.
Visual artist and writer Arsimmer McCoy’s grandmother, Leola McCoy, was an environmentalist in Fort Lauderdale known for her work fighting an incinerator in her neighborhood that blanketed the area with soot and ash. The residency was McCoy’s first time in the Everglades. The exhibition includes a video of her poetry inspired by her residency, and a photographic portrait of McCoy in the Everglades, with pictures of her mother and grandmother that reference her lineage in South Florida and the outdoors.
A short film by Ania Freer, whose work explores identity and cultural memory, interviews Daniel Tommie, a member of the Bird Clan and the Seminole Tribe of Florida. In his canoe carving studio in Big Cypress, Tommie shared personal stories that connect him to the land and his ancestry. “I can see why my ancestors fought until their last breath to be here,” Tommie says.
Tulloch’s work takes inspiration from the Florida Highwaymen, a group of Black painters in the 1950s who captured Florida’s landscape. Tulloch sought to continue their legacy by documenting the Everglades through a Black lens. He used lighting to create a sense of motion and emotion in his photography, works that blend documentary photography and a more artistic, reimagined storyline.
“Passages” will be on display at the AIRIE Nest Gallery in 2023 during regular visiting hours at the Ernest Coe Visitor Center, in Everglades National Park’s Homestead Entrance.
Artists in Residence in Everglades (AIRIE) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit that empowers artists to think creatively and critically about our relationship to the environment with a mission of revealing new paths forward. AIRIE’s immersive residency program provides artists the opportunity to live, research and create inside Everglades National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site currently listed as in danger of disappearing forever. Through our programs, AIRIE brings art, environment, and racial justice together for a more sustainable and inclusive future. Since 2001, AIRIE has supported the careers of over 190 artists, writers, musicians, curators, and other creatives through full immersion in the park.
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