During January, Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans returned to the U.S. Virgin Islands. This is their second visit to the Territory, with their first being in St. Croix 4 years ago.
Street artists created ocean advocacy murals with one mission in mind … to help create positive action for our oceans through ARTivism.
Sea Walls St. Thomas ran from the 23-28th January and also featured a weeklong public programming designed to help facilitate the ongoing relationship between the St. Thomas community, the murals, and their environment. Activities included youth outreach, beach cleanups, mural walking tours, and a film screening.
The project is being curated with the expert advice of team members Howard Forbes and Jarvon Stout from the University of the Virgin Islands to ensure relevancy to the local community and context.
Issues addressed by the murals included the proliferation of sargassum, plastic pollution, ocean acidification, warming seas, local biodiversity loss, environmental justice, and more.
Artists invited were Chunikwa George (US Virgin Islands), Cracked Ink (United Kingdom), Dface (United Kingdom), George Rose (Australia), Hannah Eddy (USA), Jarvon Stout (US Virgin Islands), Jazmin Isabel (US Virgin Islands), Jasmine Lindquist (US Virgin Islands) and Louis Jensen (United Kingdom).
“A Legacy to Leave Behind” by Chunikwa George.
“My mural “A Legacy to Leave Behind” tells a story of transformation, a journey from a damaged and struggling ecosystem to a vibrant and thriving one. The mural was painted with the assistance of several talented student volunteers from the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, whose names are signed along with mine, making it a genuine community effort. Painted on the school’s exterior wall, each brushstroke is a testament to the power of hope and to the belief that positive change is not only possible but necessary.
Through the mural, I aim to inspire viewers to see the potential for growth and renewal, even in the most unlikely places. By including our young people in the work of conservation, we will create a movement of change that will have a lasting impact on the health of our oceans.
Ultimately, the mural is a call to action, an invitation to join me in working towards a brighter, more sustainable future. By telling the story of transformation, I hope to inspire others to take part in creating a world in which all ecosystems, both on land and in the sea, can thrive.” Chunikwa GeorgeChunikwa George, 2023
“Global Connection” by Cracked Ink
“Often, when presented with a space to interact with, the shape and size of the wall can sway how I approach the design; this was certainly the case with the wall in St. Thomas. Being over 200ft long and nearly 16ft tall at the highest point, I wanted to separate the narrative so that if the viewer only caught one portion of the wall, they could still interact with the piece. It always excites me to get a new challenge, and this wall was undoubtedly that. Thinking about distinct stories and relating them to how we live in this fast-paced world, I wanted to approach my artwork by simplifying complex challenges into a compelling, simple message accompanied by a minimal yet striking color palette.
Most of humankind is connected through technology on this planet we call home. Leaning on this reality, I wanted to take this idea of global connection and adapt it into a narrative that raises awareness around ocean conservation and environmental stewardship. I kept the subject matters quirky and friendly, characteristic of my recognizable artistic style,
yet somehow subliminal so that the viewer would take the time to think about the message while putting a smile on their face as they pass by on their daily commutes.
The characters are representations of a variety of significant contemporary environmental challenges; however, they are delivered in a family-friendly, approachable, and inviting fashion that pays tribute to the succinctness of emojis. Addressing topics such as sea level rise, species protection, renewable energy, and the importance of peace and mindfulness, I ask the viewer to”Cracked Ink
“Caught Between The Devil and The Deep Blue” by Dface.
“The idea behind ‘Caught Between The Devil and The Deep Blue’ was to raise the impossible conflict imposed upon our oceans as a result of overfishing and environmental exploitation. As the global population tips past eight billion and counting, pressure on our oceans to feed and sustain those numbers is ever-growing. For many, there seems to be an underlying assumption that the earth’s oceans are simply too vast to ever cease providing, that they are a self-sustaining resource. Current estimates, however suggest that, if nothing changes, the world’s oceans could be left virtually empty by 2048, meaning we may run out of fish entirely before mid-century.
To me, the mythical character of the mermaid felt like the perfect allegory for an ocean attempting to fight back – a beautiful seabound temptress luring weary sailors to their watery graves. In this instance, however, she has not only been harpooned and bound but trapped within a glass enclosure, unable to escape and protect the oceans from further destruction. She is the reminder that against the demands of eight billion humans, there can be no capable defence. The choice then, “Between The Devil and The Deep Blue,” falls to us. Do we continue our pattern of unsustainability, exploiting a defenceless ocean until it runs dry? Or do we choose to take positive action by helping to support viable options for maintaining healthy oceans worldwide? The power to change is within our hands.”DFACE
“The Queen’s Quell” by George Rose
“This work seeks to highlight the diminishing population of queen conch in the US Virgin Islands, where the species plays a crucial role in maintaining the health of coral reefs. Conch feeds on algae that can smother and kill the reef, and without conch, the reefs become more vulnerable to disease and environmental stress. In the past, conch has been a staple food and a major export for the region; however, overfishing has caused a significant decline in conch populations. The drastic decline in population has not only affected local livelihoods but has disrupted the delicate balance of the marine ecosystem and has had evolutionary effects on the species. Overfishing has led to a decrease in genetic diversity and smaller body sizes due to selective fishing, with smaller individuals reaching maturity faster and having a higher reproductive output, leading to a trend towards smaller, faster-growing conch and cascading effects on the ecosystem.”George Rose
“Healthy is Happy” by Hannah Eddy.
“This mural celebrates the importance of a healthy and happy ecosystem. I believe that when the Earth is healthy only then we can truly be happy. All of our acts have immediate impacts on the planet and each other, and being on a small island like St. Thomas it magnifies this. I wanted to show what a “happy” island looks like by creating a biodiverse scene with natural elements that are found locally like the Bananaquit bird, baby Mangroves, and Ginger Thomas, and creatures in the surrounding ocean like sea turtles and jellyfish. I included my female character to represent a Mother Nature-type aspect. She helps remind us of one of the most important things: As humans, we are all part of nature, so if we care for nature we are caring for each other. All of these elements in the mural are shown as interconnected, balanced, and working together in a colorful and positive way to highlight the vibrancy of this island.”Hannah Eddy.
“Preserve our Home” by Jarvon Stout and Jazmin Isabel.
“The mural shows the endangered marine species around the shores of St. Thomas and is focused on the leatherback sea turtle. It brings awareness to the public that not only do we not walk this earth alone but it is also shared with marine life that is born on our beaches such as the leatherback and then strives to live in the oceans with other endangered species. The range of biodiversity also represents the marine and environmental science research happening in the Territory that focuses on understanding our natural resources so that we may better preserve them. With the words “Preserve Our Home” on the mural, we hope passersby see it and the beauty of our marine life and that it inspires them to take action to dispose of harmful waste such as plastic the correct way to help keep the ecosystem of our oceans alive for many years to come.”Jarvon Stout and Jazmin Isabel.
“Spiraling Reef” by Jasmine Lindquist
“Spiraling Reef is a child-friendly mural that I created to illustrate our native coral and fish species while subtly expressing the issue of coral bleaching. Because of global warming, when the water gets too warm, it makes it hard for the coral and the organisms living inside it to survive, resulting in a bleached color. This mural depicts a colorful coral reef with a spiral spinning out from the center, leaving everything it overlaps in black and white. This spiral represents coral bleaching. The coloring book feel of the art is meant to be appealing to all who come to the VI Children’s Museum. It is my hope that the urge to color in the black and white spiral will mirror the desire to keep our coral reefs colorful.”Jasmine Lindquist
“You Put the Screw in the Tuna” by Louis Jensen
“Bluefin Tuna numbers have drastically decreased in recent years due to overfishing and illegal fishing. Atlantic Bluefin Tunas are one the oceans greatest treasures with great value and responsibility in keeping the oceanic ecosystem balanced. As top predators, they are essential in population control of those lower in the food chain that could overpopulate and drastically affect the ocean environment. A 90’s reference remix from the Nickelodeon show Kennan & Kel, my mural has the tongue and cheek intent to be thought-provoking, making you stop and think as to what the underlying message is. YOU PUT THE SCREW IN THE TUNA is a message of taking responsibility for stabilizing the world and the ecosystem around us.”Louis Jensen
Congratulations to the team at Sea Walls: Artists for murals for another epic festival, creating awareness and much-needed attention to the health of our oceans.
Photo Credit Yoshi Yanagita @yoshi_travel_