A gray, rather nondescript warehouse lies on the Seybold Canal, just off the Miami River on the border between Overtown and Spring Garden. The words FLORIDA PRECISION INSTRUMENT CORP. are painted on the wall, but inside it’s a different world altogether: a colorful marine micro-universe teeming with life, where science and art converge in remarkably symbiotic ways.
This is the headquarters of Coral Morphologic, a 3,000-square-foot coral aquaculture center and forwardthinking, multimedia aquarium studio, the only one of its kind in the entire country. Helmed by two young visionaries—marine biologist and artist Colin Foord and his collaborative partner and close friend, musician and artist Jared McKay, both 30—the HQ contains several thousand gallons of coral aquaculture systems filled with a plethora of international stony corals and soft corals (colorful invertebrates that attach themselves to rocks) from the Caribbean and South Florida, all of which are used for scientific purposes and creative endeavors that include macro-photography, films, projections, and site-specific installations.
“We noticed that Miami doesn’t really have a true pop-cultural association with its coral reefs, and we want to change that,” Foord says. “In Miami, you have the [Art Deco] association with tropical, bold colors, and really, the corals are the original neon, glow-in-the-dark examples here.”
Recently, the coveted Knight Arts Challenge awarded CM a $150,000 matching grant to create a multimedia project promoting the upcoming Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, scheduled to open in 2015 at the new Museum Park in downtown Miami. This spring, Foord and McKay will also install a series of high-definition screens at Miami International Airport featuring marvelous aquascapes created with live coral in their aquaculture lab (including many of the most sublime, polychromatic soft coral morphs they’ve collected and cloned). Also in the works? A corresponding website with real-time coral evolution video, a projection project for the screens at New World Center, and an iPad app.
Beyond the artworks, Coral Morphologic is doing its fair share for science, as well. Foord has discovered three new species of local zoanthids (botanical-looking invertebrates). The duo have also collaborated with scientists at the Université de Provence in Marseille, France, sending over their own specimens to help build a living genetic database of coral and to make these particular species of soft coral accessible to biotechnology and pharmaceutical researchers.
But wherever Foord and McKay’s work takes it, Coral Morphologic will always remain bonded to its hometown, as it couldn’t have been formed elsewhere. “We want to keep promoting the idea that Miami truly is a coral reef city,” Foord says. “We hope this becomes an international point of view. This city is more than just a hedonistic playground—it’s also a place of unique intellect and creative opportunity.”