New AIRIE exhibition in Everglades National Park examines the little-known history of societies established by former slaves in the Florida wilderness
In commemoration of Black History Month, Artists in Residence in Everglades (AIRIE) opened The Four Moments of the Sun: Hidden Lands of Florida’s Maroon Communities, in the AIRIE Nest Gallery in Everglades National Park. This unique exhibition features the work of contemporary photographer Jeanine Michna-Bales, documenting extensive research about the forgotten stories of Florida’s Maroon communities. Maroon communities are groups of former slaves who established their own societies in the wilderness of 18th and 19th century Florida.
Upon entering the gallery, a black arrow on the wall directs visitors through a visual timeline of historical events in the greater Everglades region. Sixteen color photographs quietly expand on the locations where, during the late 1700s and 1800s, enslaved Africans escaped into the American wilderness and formed their own communities. Quiet sounds of forests and swamps are played on an audio system, layered with stories from newspapers and politicians, transporting visitors to another era in southern history. At the time, this haven was the area of land that was to become the state of Florida, and the wilderness of the Everglades.
As an AIRIE resident in November of 2018, Michna-Bales spent a month researching the history of Florida, crisscrossing the state multiple times scouting locations and capturing images for this project. “The story of the Florida maroon communities is a prescient one,” said Michna-Bales, “It is not very well known. This project sheds light on this hidden history of Florida.” Several books which influenced Bales’ work are available for the public to read, displayed alongside a map from the Miami History Museum in the center of the gallery. The exhibition is curated by Deborah Mitchell, who works closely with ten AIRIE artists per year as the AIRIE Artist Liaison.
AIRIE will host a public reception on Sunday, March 1, 2020 from 1-3 pm, that includes a conversation between the artist and environmental and public lands advocate Audrey Peterman. Peterman, a charismatic voice of diversity in National Parks, is an accomplished author and Co-Founder of Earthwise Productions, Inc., an environmental consulting and publishing firm focused on connecting the public lands system and the American public. This event is part of AIRIE’s exciting Sundays in the Park public programs, which in this case invites audiences to learn more about the exhibition and the future of Everglades National Park as a place of recreation and spiritual refuge.
AIRIE is a leading voice for the arts and ecology of the region. Since its establishment in 2001, this small non-profit has enhanced the arts and cultural heritage of the Everglades through the artist residency, public exhibitions and creative outreach programs. This unique residency is open to visual artists, writers, choreographers and composers in Everglades National Park, enabling these creative professionals to gain experience and insight into this unique fragile wilderness, thereby becoming ambassadors for its appreciation and preservation. Applications for 2021 open at airie.org on April 1st.
The Four Moments of the Sun: Hidden Lands of Florida’s Maroon
February 12 – August 30, 2020
Reception and Artist Talk: Sunday, March 1, 2020, 1-3 pm with artist Jeanine Michna-Bales and environmental / public lands advocate Audrey Peterman
AIRIE Nest Gallery Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center, Everglades National Park 40001 State Road 9336, Homestead, FL 33034