Art Activism

Marine conservation has never been more important than it is now. Our oceans are facing a plethora of threats from all sides, the majority of which humans have caused. As a result, inspiring and educating people about our oceans and the marine species that inhabit them is vital. One of the major ways this can be accomplished is through scientific research and science communication, but this isn’t for everyone, and there are a variety of other, equally effective ways to help with marine conservation. Art activism is a beautiful example of this.

Artist activists working in collaboration with conservation groups are using this powerful weapon to shift public perceptions of human influence on the environment in general and the seas in particular. The objective is to increase awareness and alter people, communities, nations, and cultures’ ecologically harmful practices.

According to studies, art has a greater emotional influence on us than a doom-and-gloom news broadcast. Now let us explore some of the conservation groups and artist activists who are using emotion to link individuals and communities to the ocean in the hopes of changing individual and collective human behavior and saving our seas.

PangeaSeed Foundation

Tre’ Packard founded the PangeaSeed Foundation in Tokyo in 2009, combining science, education, art, and activism. PangeaSeed now brings together over 300 international artists from 30 nations. A picture is worth more than a thousand words at PangeaSeed, aiming to engage a younger, hipper generation with cutting-edge films, music, and modern art murals.

Art may be the catalyst for individuals to reject destructive practices and participate in a new light, a new consciousness, especially among the younger generation. The organizations want to make the ocean trendy, bring it into the streets, and inspire a new generation to care about the oceans. People won’t advocate for something if they do not care about it. 

Following Packard’s discovery and documentation of a massive shark finning operation in northern Japan, PangeaSeed took on shark finning as its first conservation awareness cause. Sink or Swim, a shark advocacy film, was exhibited as part of a Japanese art exhibition to raise awareness about the risks of shark overfishing and the cruelty of shark finning. During the Great West Coast Migration, the awareness campaign continued, with 100 supporting artists and 25 filmmakers taking part in the 6-city event throughout the United States’ West Coast.


After seeing a Jacques-Yves Cousteau television program, Wyland, an ocean muralist and environmentalist, developed a lifelong love affair with the sea. Then, when he was 14, he witnessed gray whales migrating off the coast of Laguna Beach, California. Wyland‘s successful painting career was shaped by the gentle giants. In a project dubbed the Whaling Walls, he began his career as a marine muralist painting life-size whales. Wyland completed his 100th life-sized public sea mural in 2008, 27 years after beginning the program.

Wyland’s objective was to make the public aware of the importance of conservation problems. The Whaling Walls campaign, which spans five continents, 13 nations, and 79 towns around the world, is one of the biggest public art undertakings in history. He is also the creator of the Ocean Artists Society (OAS), which uses ocean art to motivate people all around the globe to care more about the environment. OAS member-artists take part in public education initiatives on marine conservation all throughout the world, with a focus on children.

Wyland places his aspirations for change and the future solely on the shoulders of the children with whom he paints. While working on the Whaling Walls, he was able to paint alongside over a million children and observe their enthusiasm for art and science. Painting marine creatures fostered a love of art and science in them. Art has a great deal of power, especially when it is planted in the hearts and minds of our children and young. Many of these children have gone on to careers in ocean research and conservation.

The artist hasn’t stopped dreaming big. The Wyland World Water Pledge is his most recent and possibly most important endeavor. The Wyland World Water Pledge, which was launched in the summer of 2017, aims to urge the world’s 7.5 billion people to use water responsibly. The United Nations Environment Program is a project partner of the Wyland Foundation. The 10-year outreach initiative aims to inspire and involve everyone on the globe in thinking about how to utilize the planet’s seas, lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands in a sustainable way.

Andres Amador

Andres Amador is another artist that considers the broader perspective. This artist creates his paintings on an entire beach, rather than on paper or on a wall. He’s been performing this type of job for almost 15 years. According to the artist, the early years were devoted to research, learning the material, and creating large-scale art methods, such as studying and practicing triangular grids and tessellation. Tessellation is a pattern of precisely fitting forms, such as in geometric tile work, puzzles, or even elaborate repeating wallpaper patterns.

Amador aims to play on the impermanence of not only his work, but also nature, in addition to letting the spectator think about the natural world around them. The viewer’s experience includes not only seeing or experiencing the artwork’s production, but also seeing it transformed or obliterated by the approaching sea. The environment is just as delicate and ethereal as the artwork.

Asher Jay

Asher Jay‘s art activism was inspired by an oil spill, a song, and a beach cleanup. She is best known for her Message in a Bottle art project which is now on exhibit in Times Square, New York City, at the National Geographic Encounter.

Jay began to reflect while cleaning up the beach while listening to the song “Message in a Bottle.” She came up with the idea of an immersive sound-scaped display after realizing that each bottle gathered might be redeemed and reused as an artistic vessel to deliver vital messages from fellow environmentalists to the public. The most frightening problem confronting our oceans now, according to Jay, is plastic. By 2050, it is expected that the ocean will have a 1:1 ratio of plastic to fish. She believed that rerouting the plastic to the people rather than the pelagic would be more persuasive. Message in a Bottle is a multisensory installation consisting of 365 mixed media plastic bottles, one for every day of the year. Each bottle features a different powerful voice to educate the audience on how to make better, more inclusive decisions. 

Jay was designated a United Nations Women Design Star in 2012 and a National Geographic Emerging Explorer in 2014. She is an artist, designer, and environmentalist. She graduated from Parsons School of Design with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Her work has been highlighted by National Geographic, the World Wildlife Federation, the American Museum of Natural History, and a number of other educational and conservation groups.

ONE OceanNEnvironment

Michael Aw, the creator of ONE OceanNEnvironment, the Celebrate the Sea Festival, the Elysium Project, the Ocean Geographic Society, and its journal, Ocean Geographic, utilizes a picture of an iceberg to help people comprehend and appreciate the challenges that oceans face.

All of OceanNEnvironment’s efforts, according to Aw, are results-oriented and measurable. Award-winning underwater filmmakers, photographers, marine biologists, researchers, and authors who are devoted to generating high-quality natural history multi-media works are among OceanNEnvironment’s Honorary Fellows and Associates. The organization’s main goal is to encourage people to learn about, appreciate, and help protect the ocean environment by presenting knowledge about it in a visually interesting and thought-provoking way.

In fall 2018, the Elysium Project launched the Heart of the Golden Triangle, its third collaborative study trip. Artists in the Arctic in 2010 and the Shackleton Antarctic Visual Epic in 2015 were two prior science-art collaboration missions. Each team has 50 to 60 members, including scientists, artists, and musicians. A varied team of devoted people with two or three lead scientists/investigators and around ten assistant scientists assisting with sample collecting and cataloging.There are also photographers who photograph animals on land and underwater, as well as painters who paint. Each trip lasts around 20 days and takes two years to arrange.

Since 2008, ONE OceanNEnvironment has operated throughout the Asia-Pacific area as a registered charity with Environment Australia. OceanNEnvironment’s purpose is to chronicle the state of coral reefs, biodiversity, and the impact of man-made pollution through research programs and educational trips, in addition to promoting preservation.

Tip of the Art Activism Iceberg

Of course, this is just a taste of what’s going on in the burgeoning realm of art activism. Before Googling “ocean art activism” and browsing the more than 37 million relevant links, we recommend having a snack.