This is a guest-authored piece written by PangeaSeed Foundation—a Charity Pot partner working to conserve the world’s oceans through art activism.
“The role of an artist is to make revolution irresistible.”—Toni Cade Bambara
PangeaSeed Foundation is a Hawaii-based, globally-engaged nonprofit organization working at the intersection of culture and environmentalism to further the conservation of our oceans. Using the combination of science, education, and art (S.E.A), we aim to unify and connect individuals around the world, opening a dialog to share ideas and develop a better global understanding of our connection with our oceans.
We are PangeaSeed Foundation
PangeaSeed Foundation was created out of necessity. When we started the organization, the conservation arena was quite polar, largely conservative or militant, and not much in-between. Neither approach was appealing to us and if we were going to dedicate our collective time and talent to these issues, we wanted to inspire our community, friends and family to see the oceans how we do.
As art aficionados, and believers in the transcendental nature of art, we set out to reinvent the ways we connect and become intrigued by our oceans. It is a universal language that doesn’t discriminate based on one’s culture, religion, gender or socioeconomic background, giving us an opportunity to breach boundaries.
Historically, the discourse around marine conservation oftentimes takes place in privileged circles, in conference rooms and in the research world. Much of the population is left out from these very important conversations that everyone should participate in. For generations, public art has been used as a vehicle for revolutions, as a voice for the voiceless and as a driver of change. It is democratic, open-source and free. We believe that this makes it the perfect medium to meet people where they are, to start a conversation and to unite us, just as the ocean unites all life. With few people able to put on a mask and see what’s beneath the waves, we hope to be able to share the ocean’s beauty (and its plight) with audiences far and wide.
Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans
Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans is PangeaSeed Foundation’s groundbreaking public art program that brings the oceans into the streets around the world. By collaborating with a global network of concerned contemporary artists from all backgrounds, we create large-scale public murals and artworks that address the pressing environmental issues our oceans are facing. Since the program’s establishment in 2014, we have produced over 450 murals in 17 countries spanning the globe, with the support of 300+ artists and thousands of volunteers.
Back in 2012, while traveling in Sri Lanka—a hotspot for the overfishing of manta and mobula rays—we worked with the local conservation organization to paint our very first mural that showcased mantas in a different light than what the fishermen were accustomed to. Killing these magnificent rays and selling their gill rakers for use in Chinese medicine was a lucrative way for them to feed their families in otherwise unyielding, overfished fishing grounds.
As the artists painted the mural, community members became curious and started asking questions about the artwork and its message. We had accomplished our goal of initiating a dialogue about a heavily contested subject in a non-confrontational, pure way. Up until that point, PangeaSeed Foundation had focused primarily on curating group art gallery shows related to ocean conservation. The experience we had in Sri Lanka inspired us to venture into the public space and take our oceans into streets across the globe, where everyday people live their everyday lives. We meet people where they’re at.
Today, the Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans program is PangeaSeed Foundation’s flagship program, established because we saw a need to engage with communities on a broader level to address the pressing marine environmental issues affecting our and future generations. The goal of the Sea Walls program is to foster emotional connections to and drive positive action for our ocean. The large-scale murals and artwork installations we create have the ability to disrupt and transform streetscapes in an inclusive manner.
Art is a universal language
Art is the perfect vehicle through which to connect with people in an honest and thought-provoking manner. For centuries, art has been utilized as a platform and communication tool for social, political and environmental issues. So, at PangeaSeed Foundation, we’re not necessarily reinventing the wheel, Instead, we’re organizing and mobilizing artists and creatives on a large-scale level to address pressing ocean environmental issues such as pollution, ocean acidification and overfishing through art and activism. Or, as we like to call it, “ARTivism”.
ARTivism also lends itself immensely well to science communication; to visually translating abstract, non-tangible facts and realities and to meeting everyday, non-expert people where they are. These pressing environmental issues are not sexy and there is a communication gap between the scientific community and the general public. Art can play the role of being the bridge between the two, helping to stoke better ocean stewardship and jumpstart individuals and communities into positive action for our oceans.
At a critical moment
I believe there is still some doubt around if or how art can push the needle in a positive direction when it comes to environmental change. Most people in positions of power (especially governments and institutions) tend to seek out scientific, data-driven solutions over those that tap into people’s feelings. At PangeaSeed Foundation, we’re science nerds at heart but find that scientific research and its jargon tend to fall short when it comes to pulling on our heartstrings. After all, it is through storytelling that we make sense of our world—so presenting visually compelling, emotive stories of what is happening to our oceans seems like an important part of the process. I’m confident that, with time, art’s role in change-making will be more legitimized.
Think globally, act locally isn’t just a catchy tagline. We believe in fostering a culture of environmental stewardship within local populations on the frontlines of conservation challenges needs to be the foundation of higher-level problem-solving. In conservation, one size definitely doesn’t fit all, so making people feel they’re part of the process, listening to them, and taking into account local variables is paramount.
We are at a critical moment in history where the crisis of our environment must be heard. Artists have the unique power to make public environmental statements that transcend cultural and linguistic barriers, endure the test of time and inspire us to make a change.
Whether you’re an artist or not, there are many ways to support our organization’s work and become an ally of creative change-making. Head to our websites pangeaseed.org and seawalls.org to learn more about how to get involved.
To view PangeaSeed Foundation’s incredible artwork around the world, follow them on Instagram. You can also support other community-based groups like PangeaSeed Foundation by purchasing our Charity Pot Body Lotion. 100 percent of the purchase price (minus taxes) goes directly to small, grassroots organizations around the world.