The project was named Surrounded Islands and as a child I remember remarking how it looked like giant wads of pink bubble gum had exploded throughout Biscayne Bay. The only reminder today are the occasional photographs and drawings found framed and hung around town. The project which started in 1981, involved a team of biologists, ornithologists, mammal experts and marine engineers. The first major undertaking was that of an organized, massive clean-up that resulted in the removal of 40- tons of garbage. The debris picked up included everything from an abandoned boat to literally the kitchen sink! Mattresses, refrigerator doors and old tires were among other items removed and discarded.
The next task was to get the proper permitting from agencies like the Governor of Florida and the Cabinet, the U.S Army Corps of Engineers and the Dade County Department of Environmental Resources. Once that was achieved, the pink floating fabric began to be attached section by section on May 7, 1983 the 11 installations were released between Bakers Haulover Cut, and the Broad, 79th Street, Julia Tuttle and Venetian Causeways.
The bright, frangipani colored skirts extended 200 feet from each island and seemed to pop out, unabashed, from almost every major vantage point in Miami. The large scale installation was financed entirely by the artist Christo and his wife Jeanne- Claude. They chose not to accept any type of sponsorship; opting instead to use preparatory drawings, collages and other earlier works to fund the project.
Mostly or at least in part due to its massive size, the Surrounded Islands project was not without some controversy. Although today it is remembered fondly, most people aren’t aware of how profoundly impactful it was to our local environment. The clean-up effort that took place beforehand was the most lasting and positive byproduct of the project; a kind of preservation effort in disguised our waters, vegetation and wildlife in ways that can still be seen today. For that reason alone and for many others, too the pink ephemeral extravaganza that lasted two weeks in 1983 should be remembered as a tribute to the beauty and vibrancy of Miami.
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