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THE REEFLINE: ART AND SUSTAINABILITY GO UNDERWATER IN MIAMI BEACH

Written By Josie Gulliksen
February 1, 2024 at 9:20 AM

Rendering of “Heart of Okeanos” by Petroc Sesti. Image courtesy of The ReefLine

Thinking outside the box and in an effort to combine their love of art and the environment, Ximena Caminos, founder and artistic director of The ReefLine, along with Colin Foord a marine biologist and founder of Coral Morphologic are making their dream a reality.

Caminos whose work involved discovering talent and creating launchpads for them, met Foord years ago and fell in love with his avant garde style but was also taken with its duality.

“It felt so Miami and so international at the same time. Colin’s work is beautiful and very important,” said Caminos.

It’s obvious why she tapped Foord to work with her on this project: Coral Morphologic aims to blend science and art with the goal of showcasing the coral’s beauty while inspiring people to restore the reefs as a means to protect the planet.

Caminos, who arrived in Miami after 2010, is no stranger to both national and international projects of immense magnitude. Having worked with two large scale cultural districts in North and South America, including Faena Group in Miami Beach and Buenos Aires, Argentina as well as The Underline, she understands the scope of The ReefLine.

Reefline Master Plan. Image courtesy of The ReefLine

ReefLine grew out of a conversation with Colin about the current condition of Miami Beach reef heads, and artificial reefs in place south of Fifth Street. That conversation ignited a desire to do more, leading Caminos and Foord to applying for the Knight Arts Challenge grant.

The ReefLine combines art and science, involving experts from the Department of Environmental Resources Management (DERM) and the Army Corps of Engineers. Sylvia Earle, a renowned marine biologist and oceanographer, was initially skeptical but recognized the project’s importance. All of these elements combined were the key to winning the Knight Arts Challenge grant.

Caminos was thrilled when Victoria Rogers, Vice President for Arts at the Knight Foundation called with the good news.  “Victoria Rogers said she’d awarded it to us because she knew we could pull it off,” said Caminos.

If everything goes as planned, and Caminos is confident it will, they can deploy this Spring. “We’re only a step away,” she said, explaining that “we have gone above and beyond the permitting for this project and worked with the best agencies and experts to ensure all is done correctly.”

Alongside her on this journey and lending his expertise is Foord, a graduate of the University of Miami in marine biology co-founder of Coral Morphologic.

“Our organization Coral Morphologic, which we founded in 2007, works to draw awareness to Miami’s reef track which is the third largest in the world, it’s right here and there just wasn’t a lot of awareness about it,” said Foord.

Connecting with Caminos was inevitable as Foord has been dedicated to making the reefs along Miami Beach accessible once again. The ReefLine project had been a long-time ambition for Foord, and with their combined expertise in art and science, they formed the perfect team for this innovative arts/science hybrid project.

Concrete Coral by Leandro Erlich. Image courtesy of The ReefLine

Foord explained, “Miami Beach’s development hindered reef accessibility, so it was crucial for me to create a place that is accessible. Using art as a means of attraction not only promotes ecotourism but also serves an ecological purpose.”

The ReefLine is really a collaboration with nature and the sculptures are the beginning of its evolution. Overseeing the creation of the sculptures and working with the chosen artists will be Shelby Thomas, CEO and Director of Research of Ocean Rescue Alliance International.

“Shelby is in a position to guide the artists on how they create art that will help corals settle more easily and her involvement really makes this a true collaboration between scientists, arts and nature,” said Foord.

One of those commissioned artists is Miami-based multimedia artist Carlos Betancourt who Caminos immediately tapped for the project.

“Carlos Betancourt’s installation will be a sprinkling of his starfish creations along the reefline, a starfish migration if you will,” said Caminos, who says she’s hoping donors will sponsor a star thereby creating another fundraising tool. “It will be a nice way for people to also dive or snorkel and see their sponsored star,” she said.

Her goal is to raise another $5 million dollars in the hopes of matching the city’s funds and Betancourt is up to the task.

Carlos Betancourt remembers when Caminos had her “A-ha!” moment about this project, sparking his own childhood memory of witnessing a starfish migration while snorkeling in Puerto Rico with his father.

“That memory stuck with me as I grew older and it was ideal for this project,” Betancourt explained. “The concept consumed my thoughts, envisioning an accumulation of starfish artwork along the reef, crafted from eco-friendly concrete on a larger scale.”

Betancourt and many other still-to-be-named artists will create artistic installations to be placed approximately every 100 yards starting south around Fourth Street and the hope is to have works as far north as Bal Harbour.

Learn more about The ReefLine project and all those involved, including scientists, artists and environmentalists by visiting their website TheReefLine.org.

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music and more. Don’t miss a story at www.artburstmiami.com. 

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