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Artist Xavier Cortada receives Key to City

By Marichelli Heredia
Staff Writer
--Published May 27, 1999, in the South Miami News

City officials gave the Key to the City to well-known artist Xavier Cortada for his tremendous work with Master Peace, a school-based art project, at their last City Commission meeting held on May 18.

Cortada, who serves as the artistic director of Master Peace, has taken this concept into eight Miami-Dade County schools. South Miami School of the Arts, a magnet school of South Miami Senior High, is one that is using art as a vehicle to bring about positive messages within their schools and their communities. Master Peace is based on the belief that through collaborative public art projects, youths can learn to value diversity, resolve conflicts, strengthen self-esteem, and increase respect for others.

"I worked along with 10 of the students in creating a mural that best captured the essence of the people in South Miami. After much discussion and dialogue, the students realized that South Miami has so much cultural diversity, and thus they made that the theme of the mural," Cortada said.south-miami-key.jpg (46662 bytes)

Parents, students and members of the community wrote various sayings on slips of paper at an Art Expo that was held earlier in January. The art students made their mural by laminating these pieces of paper onto canvas. They then added the colors of South Miami, green and yellow, along with the symbolic white dove that carries a message from Mayor Julio Robaina. The commissioners also had the opportunity to impart their messages of wisdom. The students donated the mural to City Hall where it will hang in the City Commission Chambers.

"Xavier Cortada is a pioneer when it comes to showcasing the talent of young women and men all over the world. We are proud to have him in South Miami. The Key to the City is just a small memento of the love we have for him and for all that he has done for the city," Robaina said.

"This was a community collaborative mural. It captured the thoughts and voices of the people in this area," Cortada stated.

"This mural is a medium that expresses emotions. People shared their religious views, cultural views and their feelings," said Michael Richardson, commercial arts teacher at South Miami School of the Arts.

Cortada’s paintings have been exhibited in museums and galleries on four continents, and he has created pro-social murals with diverse community groups. An attorney and a community leader, Cortada combines his artistic talent with his concern for social and political issues. Some of the topics he has explored through his work are community development, racism, violence, poverty, political freedom and AIDS. Like his art, his civic involvement is aimed at bringing about positive, lasting, social changes.

"I am moved and impressed with the work that these students have done," Cortada stated. "South Miami School of the Arts is a creative center. These students are very talented."