“Life Begins After Andrew,” according to the vivid pictorial display on the walls of the Richter Library.
The exhibit honors those who experienced Hurricane Andrew a decade after it devastated the South Florida community.
“I went out to do a set of record photos after the storm and realized that the signs were very interesting,” said Dr. Eugene F. Provenzo, Jr., a professor in the School of Education and organizer of the exhibit.
The photographs were taken at the Country Walk housing complex by Provenzo shortly after Hurricane Andrew left 13 dead and 250,000 homeless and caused 1.3 million to live for weeks without electricity.
Hurricane Andrew was one of the nation’s most costly national disasters, racking up $20-$30 billion in damage.
According to Dr. Provenzo and Donner Valle, a senior in graphic design who helped in the creation of the library exhibit, the signs from the photographs were stretched to make them as close as possible to the original image, and the words and phrases survivors had painted on their homes were spray-painted onto the exhibit’s walls.
“For many of us, the memory of the storm was constantly with us in the first year or two after the storm, but after a decade, the memory begins to slip away,” Dr. Provenzo said.
“I think looking at historical sources, like the photos, makes us go back and think again about how events like Hurricane Andrew so importantly shaped not only our personal lives but also the history of our community,” he said.
The photographs have elicited mixed emotions.
Many students feel that the display serves as a necessary reminder of the devastation that can result from nature.
“Being Miami people, Andrew’s a big deal because everyone was affected by it,” junior Gabby Zadoff said. “It’s good to have it up to remind people that a hurricane is not just a party to get out of school.”
Senior Amanda Brooke agrees.
“After living in Florida for so long, you forget how damaging hurricanes can be; you get numb,” she said. “I think it’s always good to be reminded of how powerful hurricanes are.”
Some students, however, feel the display is merely dredging up disturbing memories.
“People don’t want to remember that – it’s the same thing as Sept. 11,” senior Angela Barrios said. “We just want to move on with our lives.”
“A lot of people come up to me and say that they don’t like it and that it’s kind of ‘cult-ish’. I think it’s interesting,” said Leslie Lao, who works at the front desk in the library. “It makes an impact on the tenth year anniversary. It’s definitely shocking.”
“I went through the hurricane so it’s kind of traumatizing to see these pictures,” sophomore Susie Acosta said. “People who don’t know what a hurricane is can learn from those pictures.”
Other students felt that the idea of the exhibit should be used for other issues occurring throughout campus.
“[The display] gives a medium for both students and non-students, and not just in the library, but wherever they have blank space,” sophomore Edward Maros said.
“Art exhibits are always going to upset someone; here we are, criticizing artists on what is supposed to be a liberal campus,” Maros said.
Dr. Provenzo believes it is important to remember the historical impact of Hurricane Andrew.
“I think it’s important for people to recall what happened and to remember one of the most dramatic and devastating moments in South Florida’s history.”
The temporary walls stay up throughout the Richter library’s renovation period.