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About the Artist

About the Art

I democracy
Xavier Cortada, “Democracy (is an action verb),” chalk on blackboard, 10″ x 8″, 2017

At noon, on January 20th, 2017, I led fellow Miamians in the performance of “Oath.”  On a bright Wynwood street, they read the full text of the United States Constitution out loud.  Together, they raised their right arm and took the Oath of Citizen.  I then had them speak their favorite clause from the document

they had just read into a water-filled glass and stir it.  They drank the words, incorporating the document into their very being.

As we approach U.S. Constitution Day (September 17th, 2017), I created “Democracy (is an action verb)” as a gift to my city.   It is an owner’s manual –a path teaching us how to care for the breathing, living document we pledged to preserve, protect and defend on Inauguration Day.

Many Miamians come from countries where democracy and the rule of law has failed or is failing. Growing up here, I always imagined our city’s outstretched arms welcoming them (as they did my parents).  Taking them in, bestowing them with gifts of freedom, democracy.   To me, democracy was like sunshine: Gifts we had in abundance. It was a given for all of us.

But, as I grew older and as I’ve seen my nation grow more and more polarized, I’ve realized that it’s not quite true.  Freedom is not eternal.  Rights can erode. Democracy is difficult, fragile, vulnerable.  Democracy is hard work.  It’s not a thing we get by virtue of being American.  But, because we are American, it is an activity we continuously engage in.

Through my socially-engaged practice, I develop work to help audiences see themselves as protagonists, problem-solvers. Through this work, I challenge them to be the change they want to see, to work together to build a more perfect Union.  To animate democracy.

By asking individuals to conjugate democracy as if it were a verb, I ask them to take action to make democracy happen.  And by conjugating the other pronouns, I ask them to engage and also hold all others accountable.

I democracy
You democracy
He/she democracies

We democracy
You democracy
They democracy


About Xavier Cortada

Xavier Cortada has worked with groups globally to produce numerous collaborative art projects, including environmental installations at the North Pole and South Pole, peace murals in Cyprus and Northern Ireland, child welfare murals in Bolivia and Panama, AIDS murals in Switzerland and South Africa and eco-art projects in Taiwan and Holland.

Cortada has created art for the White House, CERN, the World Bank, the Museum of Florida History, the Florida Botanical Gardens, Miami City Hall, the Frost Art Museum, Miami-Dade County Hall, the Miami Science Museum, Port Everglades and the Florida Turnpike.

His work is in the collections of the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), the NSU Museum of Art in Ft. Lauderdale, the Whatcom Museum, and the Patricia and Philip Frost Art Museum.

Cortada’s studio is located at Pinecrest Gardens, where he serves as artist-in-residence. Since 2011, Cortada has based his socially-engaged art-science practice at Florida International University, serving in the FIU College of Arts, Sciences & Education (CASE) School of Environment, Arts and Society (SEAS), and the FIU College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts (CARTA).

Cortada, who was born in Albany, New York and grew up in Miami, holds degrees from the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences, Graduate School of Business and School of Law.

Learn more aboiut Cortada at www.cortada.com.