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Artist crafting mural with worldly message

by Gail Meadows
The Miami Herald Arts (People in the Arts), Miami, Florida, June 21, 1998

Miami's Xavier Cortada - who has a law degree and a master's in public administration but spends his days as an artist - leaves Wednesday for Switzerland, where he'll create a mural for the 12th International Conference on AIDS.

Convention attendees are to participate in the creation of the mural; Cortada sold the idea to organizers several months ago via e-mail.

"Your job as an artist is to create opportunities," said Cortada, 33, a grad of Miami High and the University of Miami.   "That's as important as the process of painting."

PeopleInArts.jpg (32027 bytes)His plan: to obtain from 1,000 of the 12,000 participants a slip of paper with a sketch or an essay about AIDS at the end of "a millennium plagued by plagues," he says.  He'll create a central image and then incorporate the other material onto the canvas, which is to be more than 60 feet long and 20 feet high.

"It's a way to help the conference not end," Cortada said.

By July 3, when the gathering closes, he's scheduled to have completed the work, which will then travel to different cities every month until the next International AIDS Conferece - in Dakar, Senegal, in 2000.

The Geneva convention culminates a string of good luck for Cortada.  Last year, he was commisioned to create a six-panel mural in Washington by Mothers Agains Drunk Driving, which brought to Capitol Hill youngsters affected by drunk drivers in each of the nation's 435 congressional districs.   The work wound up incorporating 450 pieces of art.

Last months, a one-man show of his exhuberant, colorful paintings - Cubaba - closed at ArtCenter/South Florida on Lincoln Road.

And in October, at the opening of Niketown in the Shops at Sunset Place in South Miami (rising from the rubble of the Bakery Centre), Cortada will have three paintings on display, two of which will be copied and magnified into glass mosaics that will cover the exterior walls along U.S. 1.  Each painting will become 108,000 pieces of glass.  One captures baseball, the other soccer.  He beat out 50 other applicants for the job.



Click here for more information on the Bridging the Gap AIDS Mural Project