For decades after Western Expansion, South Florida was still a wilderness. Only once pioneers dredged canals and redirected the flow of Lake Okeechobee did this area become habitable. These once considered “useless” territories of marshes and swamps ultimately gave way to development and industry. On the southern tip of the lake lies Belle Glade, a small agricultural town that one might pass on a road trip today, just a couple of stoplights and it’s gone. It hides a rich history that leads to how we arrived here to Florida. In 2015, I moved to Belle Glade into a former rooming house apartment and soon after came across books by Lawrence E. Will and Zora Neale Hurston. Will painted a picture of the pioneers who developed the area through persistence and foresight, and for me, Hurston gave a voice to the workers who built the Glades with their bare hands. Their writing became my framework for exploring the past and looking at its contemporary parallels. In this time capsule, history is present. Roots run deep and the pioneer spirit can still be felt.
Foreverglades is a public art installation and photography exhibit. I produced a replica of a 1920s freight boat, which inside houses my photographic project that was developed over the course of four years. Nearly 100 years ago before roads were paved in Florida, boats arrived at a crowded and busy inland port called the Stub Canal Turning Basin. This basin once hosted the arrival of steamboats from the Everglades agricultural region delivering their farm products. Today, the Stub Canal is a retention pond with no trace of its historic identity. My project involves bringing the stories of the Glades, Western Palm Beach County, back to the original site, and transporting residents to another time in history. I reveal connections to this past through an overall portrait of a region, including images of modern-day workers, farmers, and the life.