PangeaSeed, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting oceans, uses “artivism” to raise awareness about the threats facing oceans and sea life around the world. This summer, the organization hosted its second “Sea Walls: Murals for Oceans” festival to send a message about saving our oceans through public art.
This year, the five-day festival was held on the island of Cozumel, Mexico. Thirty five large-scale murals were completed by 36 artists from around the world, including 12 artists from Mexico. The works address a wide range of ocean issues, from overfishing to plastic pollution.
The first Sea Walls festival was also held in Mexico, on Isla Mujeres, where many species of endangered sharks can often be spotted. Similarly, Cozumel’s coast is an important habitat for many marine animals, including endangered sea turtles.
During the festival, PangeaSeed organized a series of public events including a documentary screening. Kids had the opportunity to make crafts from reclaimed materials while learning about the oceans.
The works incorporate a diverse range of artistic styles, but many depict the animals that can be found along Mexico's coasts. Other murals pay homage to great ocean activists, including Dr. Sylvia Earle and Jacques Cousteau.
Naturally, some of the works tell troubling tales. Mexican painter Jesus Benitez created a mural where a whale and her young calf swim above an ominous human skeleton. In an artist statement, Benitez said this specter represents deep ocean drilling.
In another colorful painting with a dark message, two people swim in what appears to be a bloody bowl of shark fin soup. Artists Caratoes and Celeste Byers collaborated to create this image, which addresses the black market for shark fins, which endangers many of the world’s shark populations.
These works aim to reach both the local communities and tourists who visit the island, creating a kind of open-air gallery that’s free to all. “The power of public art and activism has the ability to educate and inspire the global community to help save our seas,” said PangeaSeed Executive Director Tre Packard.
All photos courtesy of the PangeaSeed Foundation.