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Coral Morphologic teams with Miami Science Museum on multimedia art-science project

By Leonard Ho - Posted Nov 30, 2011 08:10 AM
Earlier this year, the Knight Foundation awarded Coral Morphologic a $150,000 matching grant for a collaborative multimedia project (with the Miami Science Museum) to be installed in terminals and waiting areas at Miami International Airport. The exhibitions will showcase corals as living art forms.

In addition to the beautiful scenery and beautiful people of Miami, visitors to the Miami International Airport will soon be greeted by another beautiful sight:

Aqua/Cultural Transformation: The New Miami Science Museum

Coral Morphologic has teamed with the Miami Science Museum to build excitement for its arrival downtowns at Museum Park by collaborating on a multimedia art-science project at Miami International Airport. This public project will promote the world-class aquarium exhibits that will be central to the new Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, to be completed at the end of 2014. High-definition screens will be installed in airport terminals and waiting areas to portray fluorescent corals as living art forms and icons of the city. These installations will engage, relax and entrance travelers of all ages, while reinforcing Miami’s position as a gateway to the coral reefs of the Caribbean. Additionally, coral aquascapes also will be shown on the New World Symphony’s 1,700 square foot outdoor projection wall during a night of underwater film.

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We had an opportunity to talk to Colin Foord, co-founder of Coral Morphologic.  He explains more about their exciting project:

MiamiScibldgaquarium_small.jpgCoral Morphologic is proud to announce a collaboration with the Miami Science Museum on a multi-media project that will introduce corals as icons for the city of Miami.  The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has awarded us with a two-year $150,000 matching grant to facilitate the project. The Miami Science Museum is nearing the groundbreaking on their new $275 million facility to be built in the heart of the city on Biscayne Bay and scheduled to open in 2015.  Our collaborative project aims to build excitement for this new museum, while also increasing awareness that the Science Museum will have over 800,000 gallons of impressive aquarium exhibits. The project primarily revolves around the installation of a series of high-definition flatscreens in terminals at the Miami International Airport that will display 'digital aquascapes' of corals and coral reef life.  The source reef aquariums will be set up and filmed in Coral Morphologic's studio/lab in downtown Miami, and then streamed to the airport screens.  It is our goal to showcase authentic biotopes that are comprised of Floridian corals and marinelife to accurately represent Miami's reefs.  We are in the process of obtaining permits to collect Caribbean stony corals for this project, since they will be utilized for public education/display purposes.  The major dredge project of Government Cut here in Miami will require the removal of hundreds of stony corals, and we intend to utilize some of these displaced corals in our aquascapes to create a truly authentic Miami coral reef display.  Notable amongst the corals to be collected, aquacultured, and showcased will be the hybrid Acropora cervicornis x palmata that was the subject of the TEDxMIA talk I gave earlier this year.

These screens at the airport will serve several overlapping functions:

  • To build excitement and awareness for the new Miami Science Museum's public aquarium exhibits
  • To develop a new iconography of the city, built around the notion that Miami is a cosmopolitan 'Coral Reef City'. And that our reefs imparted it with vibrancy and fluorescence long before South Beach ever existed
  • To entrance, welcome, and relax travelers with the beauty and motion of water, corals, fish, and invertebrates via multi-media means
These digital installations will be considerably more interesting, practical, and cost-effective than physical aquarium installations.  From our lab we will be able to monitor and maintain these studio-display aquariums 24/7. In a post-9/11 world, aquariums are no longer feasible to install in airports, and thus this project provides a high-tech alternative that will be much more interactive and captivating than the standard 'fiberglass coral and fish-only' public systems of decades past.  A dedicated website will allow anyone from anyplace on Earth to follow the project and observe the aquariums in our lab.

This is a matching grant, meaning that in order for us to receive funds from the Knight Foundation, we need to come up with a corresponding amount on our own first.  In other words, we won't simply be getting a $150,000 check!   We will be getting some help from the MSM, but we will also be soliciting sponsorships from aquarium dry-goods manufacturers in the form of equipment, as these can be claimed as matching 'in-kind' donations. In exchange, we will highlight and promote these companies as the exclusive providers of the equipment in question (lighting, skimmers, pumps, additives, etc).   Two Little Fishies which has already signed on, and is an existing sponsor of Coral Morphologic/Morphologic Studios. The grant only covers part of our lab/studio's operating expenses, so the continued support of our customers buying corals from our website will enable us to focus more on this project, and less on basic survival!

When my partner Jared and I founded Coral Morphologic back in 2007, it was our goal from the beginning to create an innovative multi-media coral reef aquarium studio.  Lacking the funds to be able to accomplish such a lofty goal, we recognized that the only way that we'd be able to achieve this was to begin aquaculturing and selling corals as a means of economic growth and survival. In a sense, we became symbiotic with, and dependent on, the corals we cultured and sold.  Only by keeping our corals (and customers!) happy and growing, could we progress towards our longer-term studio goals.   We founded Coral Morphologic just about the same time that the US economy went into a tailspin, and found ourselves swimming against the current, with no outside help from bank loans or investors. Without the ability to borrow, we could only grow when we earned the means ourselves, and learned to be as efficient as possible to maximize our efforts.   We very nearly bottomed out several times along the way, but after a lot of hardwork and a little luck, we finally find ourselves crossing the threshold to where we have been striving to be.  

Coral Morphologic began in the Florida room (essentially a sunroom to the Northerners) of our shared house, and bit-by-bit we began to build up not only a successful coral selling website, but also the makings of a proper aquarium art studio. In the summer of 2010, we finally reached a point where we had outgrown our little 500 square foot Florida room, and moved Coral Morphologic into a 3,000 square foot warehouse along the Miami River.  2011 has seen us slowly building up our new aquaculture lab, increasing the diversity of corals under culture, and securing future projects that will finally allow us to put our focus back onto the whole reason we started a coral selling business: multi-media aquarium art.

But at the heart of it all, we simply couldn't have gotten to this point without the support of all our amazing customers!  For this we are incredibly grateful, and there isn't a day that goes by that we aren't thankful.  It is one of Coral Morphologic's goals in this project (and future projects) to highlight the importance that aquarium hobbyists have had on unlocking the secrets of coral biology.  By using all the technological channels available, the reef aquarium hobby has collectively advanced an entire field of biological science.  There is an important DIY spirit in the reef aquarium hobby that has allowed the achievement of goals that previously were considered outlandish or impossible.  The connectivity of the Internet has only fueled everyone's ability to share ideas and progress this science faster than ever before.   It is one of Coral Morphologic's goals to facilitate a synergistic dialogue between the worlds of science, art, and technology, because from our perspective, this is exactly where the realm of reef aquarium keeping and aquaculture lies.

And here is the official press release for the collaborative project:

Media Contact:
Tony Lima
T: (305) 646-4209
tlima@miamisci.org

KNIGHT FOUNDATION AWARDS $150,000 CHALLENGE GRANT TO DEVELOP INNOVATIVE MULTI-MEDIA CORAL REEFS AT MIAMI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Coral Morphologic and Miami Science Museum Team Up for New Virtual Aquarium Project That will Build Excitement for Upcoming
Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science

MIAMI – Tuesday, November 29, 2011 – Coral Morphologic has teamed up with the Miami Science Museum to build excitement for their future arrival at downtown's Museum Park by collaborating on a multimedia art/science project at the Miami International Airport. This public project, funded by a generous grant by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, will build anticipation for the world-class aquarium exhibits that will be central to the new museum, to be named the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science.  A series of high-definition screens will be installed in the terminals and waiting areas of the airport to portray fluorescent corals as living art forms and icons of the city. These installations will engage, relax and entrance travelers of all ages, while reinforcing Miami's unique position as a gateway to the coral reefs of the Caribbean.

“This public science-arts project is an excellent example of how art can enhance visitors’ appreciation and enjoyment of science and, in this case, get a virtual glimpse of what our new museum, the future Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science has in store for tourists and the community at-large," said Gillian Thomas, President and CEO, Miami Science Museum.

Additionally, coral aquascapes will also be displayed on the New World Symphony’s 1,700 square foot outdoor projection wall during a night of underwater film.  The project aims to enhance Miami’s cultural and tropical landscape and reinforce its natural beauty by exposing millions of tourists and residents to this inspiring imagery.

"Coral Morphologic stretches the boundaries of art, playing on Miami's unique geography to create a living art form that reflects our community. Through public exhibitions at Miami International Airport, their work will help weave culture into South Floridian's everyday lives," said Dennis Scholl, Knight Foundation's vice president/arts.

"Coral Morphologic is honored to partner with the Miami Science Museum to build anticipation for the new museum and its impressive aquarium exhibits. The new museum will serve as beacon for Miami's intellectual renaissance, and these installations at MIA will help sow those seeds by inspiring millions of travelers with the sublime beauty of our coral reefs. We also couldn't be happier that this collaboration embodies the all-important, coral-inspired concept of symbiosis so perfectly well,” said Colin Foord, of Coral Morphologic.

Designed by internationally renowned Grimshaw Architects, the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science will bring the most spectacular high-design experience to Miami’s already bustling cultural landscape. The 250,000 square-foot complex is intended to act as a demonstration of ecological and sustainability principles, harnessing energy from water, sun, wind and museum visitor energy to power exhibits and conserve resources. The museum is structured around a lushly landscaped indoor and outdoor “living core” of terrestrial and aquatic spaces, featuring a 600,000 gallon aquarium facility, a full dome 3-D planetarium, hands-on exhibits, cutting edge technology and two additional wings of exhibition space, classrooms and cafes. With the support of the City of Miami, Miami-Dade County and others in the community, the new Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science is on track to be a stand-out destination, inspiring visitors to learn, share and embrace science and technology. The new museum is slated to break ground in the spring of 2012 and open late 2014.

###

ABOUT THE JOHN S. AND JAMES L. KNIGHT FOUNDATION
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more information, see: http://www.knightfoundation.org

ABOUT CORAL MORPHOLOGIC
Coral Morphologic is a marine biologist-owned coral aquaculture laboratory and multi-media aquarium studio based in Overtown (Miami), Florida. They spend their time cloning corals, exploring coral reefs, making educational films, and documenting marine-life using cutting-edge techniques. Coral Morphologic’s aim is to create a multi-media output that advances scientific discourse in a manner that is both artistic and understandable. 

For more information and examples of their art, photography, and multi-media works, please visit http://morphologicstudios.com.

ABOUT MIAMI SCIENCE MUSEUM
Miami Science Museum aims to make a difference in people’s lives by inspiring them to appreciate the impact that science and technology can have on every facet of our world. For over 60 years, Miami Science Museum’s award-winning educational programs, family-focused exhibits, historic planetarium, and rehabilitative Wildlife Center and Clinic have enriched locals and tourists alike. In 2014, the legacy continues with the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, a new world-class, state-of-the-art facility designed by Grimshaw Architects in the heart of downtown Miami. Miami Science Museum is accredited by the American Association of Museums and is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. For more information about the current Museum or our future home, the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, visit www.miamisci.org or call (305) 646-4200.

Miami Science Museum is located at 3280 South Miami Avenue, Miami, FL 33129. The Museum is open every day from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Admission is free for MiaSci members and children under 3; students (with valid ID), seniors (62+) and children 3 – 12, $10.95; adults are $14.95. Parking is free.

Miami Science Museum is funded with the support of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners.

Author: Leonard Ho
Location: Southern California

I'm a passionate aquarist of over 30 years, a coral reef lover, and the blog editor for Advanced Aquarist. While aquarium gadgets interest me, it's really livestock (especially fish), artistry of aquariums, and "method behind the madness" processes that captivate my attention.

Website: http://www.advancedaquarist.com.

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