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Miami Artist’s Novel Idea Dives Into Coastal Conservation

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Those who believe nature is its own work of art will find a lot to like in an effort underway in Miami that uses public art as a forum to promote environmental conservation. Once completed, the project — called the ReefLine — will feature an underwater public sculpture park, a snorkel trail, and seven miles of purpose-built reefs.

Installation began last year and will occur in several stages. According to the project website, the ReefLine will run north off the coast of Miami from 4th Street to South Beach and provide “a critical habitat for endangered reef organisms, promoting biodiversity and enhancing coastal resilience.”

Photo Courtesy ReefLine 

It was founded by Ximena Caminos, an art curator who founded the nonprofit BlueLab Preservation Society. Her partners include Miami-based art studio Coral Morphologic, the City of Miami Beach, and the Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), which will oversee the project’s 15-acre master plan.

Others involved include the Knight Foundation, the digital art platform Aorist, and the 3-D virtual world Decentraland. The City of Miami Beach approved a $5 million bond issue to help finance the ReefLine, “Miami Today” reported

“People think of Miami Beach as a tourist attraction, not an educational site,” the project website said. “The ReefLine is a unique initiative at the intersection of art, science, and education, drawing attention to the important themes of conservation and marine life.”

Photo Courtesy ReefLine 

The ReefLine idea was hatched several years ago during a conversation Caminos had with marine biologist Colin Foord, the founder of Coral Morphologic. The two talked “about how artificial reefs could be used to restore and protect Miami Beach’s marine ecosystem,” Caminos told “The New York Times.” That ecosystem has been disappearing, along with natural coral reefs in the area.

“It got me thinking about how we could unite art and science to create sustainable change,” Caminos continued. “Colin and I ended up putting together a grant proposal for the Knight Foundation Arts Challenge Award, which looks for really out-of-the-box ideas, and we won. That gave us the seed money to start bringing the idea to life.”

One of the project’s primary goals is to help restore biodiversity to natural habitats in the region.

Photo Courtesy ReefLine 

“There is very little habitat left for reef species to live and propagate,” Caminos said. “The ReefLine will be public housing for fish with tons of nooks and crannies for life to grow and thrive.”

Project leaders enlisted marine biologists and field experts to test the site for resiliency and to “learn what strengthens a coral’s ability to survive and recover from environmental stressors,” she added. “There will be plenty of community programs for those who want to help scientists monitor fish populations or outplant coral fragments cultivated in coral nurseries onto specific sections of the ReefLine.”

One of the things Caminos learned during her research is that artificial reefs could be deposited in waters “to aid in replenishing its coral population,” CNN reported.

Photo Courtesy ReefLine 

“I thought, ‘What if we created a reef designed by artists?’” Caminos told “CNN.” “I’ve always been interested in how we can combine art and science to address issues of sustainability.” 

To maximize its potential, ReefLine brought together a team of designers, marine biologists, researchers, and coastal engineers. 

“The team has to be cross-disciplinary,” Caminos said. “Artists, architects, scientists, preservationists, and city officials are coming together to create this underwater sculpture garden that will form the artificial reef, helping to foster the regrowth of the area’s destroyed coral and enhance coastal resilience.” 

The project’s master plan is made up of geometric concrete modular units designed by OMA partner Shohei Shigematsu. According to “Miami Today,” the total cost was estimated at less than $12 million.

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