Arts and Activism Lecture Series
On World Communion Sunday in October of 2022, Coral Gables Congregational, United Church of Christ in Coral Gables, Florida affirmed our covenant to become a Creation Justice Church. In preparation for this affirmation of our covenant, our Green Christians group hosted a number of educational sessions for our congregation that highlighted the way art can profoundly impact how we see and engage the world as people of faith.
With creation justice as our guiding theme, our Art & Activism series featured prominent Miami-based artists. Local artists Xavier Cortada, Carl Juste, and Onajida Shabaka discussed their career and artistic practice in the context of the growing climate crisis and damage to Florida’s fragile environment. Other topics covered the need to address social and racial inequities in Miami, a city of many immigrants from the Caribbean and Latin America.
Pulitzer-Prize winning photojournalist Carl Juste spoke about his recent museum projects, including a large-scale outdoor photograph inspired by the historic 1968 strike of Black sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. It acquired new relevance during the summer of Black Lives Matter protests. Another project exposed neglect and painstaking revival of one of Miami’s Black cemeteries, Lincoln Memorial Park, established in 1924 during Jim Crow years.
Widely exhibited artist Onajide Shabaka discussed how his art lifts up little-understood reminders of the African diaspora and Native American culture, taking inspiration from his travels throughout Florida, Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean to explore patterns of immigration. His artistic practice includes meditative walks, photography, sculpture and video, enriched by the careful eye of an ethnobotanist and the curiosity of a documentary journalist.
Internationally recognized advocate for environmental justice Xavier Cortada explained how his socially engaged art projects directly invite the public to become more mindful and pro-active about responding to the climate crisis. In 2022, he was named to “The Grist 50,” an annual list of emerging leaders throughout the U.S. who create fresh, real-world solutions that point the way to a more just and sustainable future.
The Rev. Aaron Lauer is the Associate Pastor of Emerging Generations at Coral Gables United Church of Christ.