Mind you, few kids think of art as media, much less a distribution channel to evoke a sea change of dedication to the planet or any cause.
Truth is, public art has the ability to nourish kids’ souls and jostle the imagination to amuse, inspire, instill hope, or in the case of The Wyland Foundation support the environment and be shaping youth hands-on in living color! (visual here from Wyland’s ‘Hands Across the Ocean’ exhibit last year in D.C. on the National Mall via woodleywonderworks Flickrstream)
Whether it’s inner city kids graffiti art transforming urban blight into cultural expression, or purposeful whimsy like the painted cow parades in Denver and Chicago or the giant hand-painted hearts left around San Francisco by my colleague Michael Osborne, art unites to create community and a sense of belonging FAR bigger than one’s own world.
Nowhere is this more pervasive than the massive murals of marine life artist and conservationist Wyland, who has helped to open the eyes of an estimated 1 billion people a year who may have never seen an undersea universe, much less experienced its fragility.
Wyland’s murals consistently capture kids’ interest, painting a rainbow of hope and promise for marine conservation that particularly resonates with children…
Kids won’t protect what they don’t know, understand, or relate to, so I love that Wyland’s pervasive pop culture presence exposes kids to ocean advocacy in multiple ways. He’s like a worldwide ambassador for the creatures that live through his art.
Whether it’s a ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius: Faster, Higher, Stronger’ Olympic dolphin poster in Beijing or his final installment of his “100 murals whale-wall project,” he leaves a visual calling card as well as an emotional one, by mixing kids into the magic. In Beijing he invited children from 204 different countries to participate!
His latest press coup where we met last week was his 4000 sq. ft. original art unveiled for Disneynature’s Earth premiere. Whether it’s retouching his Guinness record-breaking 116,000 sq. ft. ‘Ocean Planet’ (Whaling Wall 33) in Long Beach, or a signature whale on an Aloha Airlines airplane tail Wyland’s art seems to show up everywhere, as does the man himself.
While many of my local artist friends in Hawaii and California sniff that his creations are ‘over-exposed,’ I see an entirely different view…His work is his mission.
There’s a reason he’s using art as media to communicate over four continents, twelve countries and earn recognition for his efforts from the Sierra Club to the United Nations…it can’t all be for big bucks, hotels and best sellers, otherwise he wouldn’t be donating his time sweating in a heat wave high atop the Long Beach Convention Center roof!
His popularity enables him to use art as an outreach tool far beyond gallery exhibitions, museum sculptures, private collections or commercial ventures…He’s leveraged this time and again with his Wyland Foundation and ongoing work with children to convey the need to protect our natural waterways. (wetlands, streams, rivers, oceans)
My goddaughter, Lara (left of Wyland, below) was lucky enough to be among the youth volunteers helping paint a collaborative children’s mural while he was refurbishing the massive Whaling Wall 33 in Long Beach…
And it appears he does this stuff all the time…As next week he’ll be at the 13th Annual Children’s Water Festival educating 4-6th graders about conservation with hands-on fun relating to water issues…
We’ve found this hands-on element to be a critical element in our success with kids’ retention in our counter-marketing work at Shaping Youth, so it pleases me to no end that Wyland ‘walks the walk’ and incorporates his own art with marine sciences to yield the next generation of kids learning to comprehend the necessity of a greener planet.
Yes, it IS VERY cool, and a big hit with tweens already, (already receiving more than 40,000 visits in the first ten days according to VWN)…but ultimately, it’s still missing that personal touch.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE that we can empower kids to help kids make a difference in 3D worlds like Elf Island’s WildAid Shark Quest, or via Polar Bears International, or their current Plant-It 2020 tree project to green the planet in Niger…Kids can create their avatars in Green.com and over 150 other virtual worlds, or connect with the newly launched Habitat Heroes, a global, social networking site for young eco-warriors…
But as much as Shaping Youth keeps trying to “go digital” to scale our vision, the hands-on community grassroots engagement continues to be our most effective outreach tool for painting memories in the mind with staying power.
Children often learn informally and experientially, so while I love the online virtual world 3D engagement, it’s kind of like expecting Wyland’s new book “100 Whaling Walls” to try and capture the vastness and grandeur of one of his 3 acre murals via print.
There’s just nothing quite like being there in person…Kids love being in full tilt “go, see, do” mode to ramp up their tactile senses and embrace a love of learning…As Wyland’s newsletter reads,
“Volunteers will be needed to paint with children, assist with the maze and watershed mosaic set-up and break-down, guide children through the Water’s Extreme Journey maze, and to help out in the Wyland Foundation membership booth. Set-up volunteers must be able to kneel, bend, and stand for long periods of time and may be required to lift equipment up to 40 lbs. (A minimum 4-hour time commitment is required.)”
I don’t know about you, but just reading that I wanna go! Sounds like a win-win for all…Free labor for Wyland, fun-frivolity and community service…And a way for kids to learn art and science while seeing their work literally come to life on canvas…
“How often people speak of art and science as though they were two entirely different things, with no interconnection. An artist is emotional, they think, and uses only his intuition; he sees all at once and has no need of reason. A scientist is cold, they think, and uses only his reason; he argues carefully step by step, and needs no imagination. That is all wrong…”
…”The true artist is quite rational as well as imaginative and knows what he is doing; if he does not, his art suffers. The true scientist is quite imaginative as well as rational, and sometimes leaps to solutions where reason can follow only slowly; if he does not, his science suffers.”
– Isaac Asimov, The Roving Mind
I actually stumbled upon Ashley’s artwork online when I bought an original piece of her work for Shaping Youth’s film trailer Body Blitz: Media, Shaping Youth. She truly does “describe the world with a paintbrush” and make change by capturing issues through her own creative lens, often donating a portion of her profits to organizations aligned with the issue she’s painting.
Likewise, the new art and science program Wyland Clean Water Challenge, developed by his Foundation, UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Birch Aquarium is taking change even a step further taking activism directly into art and science education.
They’re hoping to reach 57 million students in the U.S. and inspire young people everywhere about marine science and the conservation of water quality…
Wyland’s Mobile Learning Center adds a feasible way to literally roll right into action as an exhibit on wheels..
His nationwide science and art contests with kids even gives him some stiff competition for the next generation of eco-artists. Awe-inspiring.
Mark my words…This is no fluke…Wyland walks the walk and goes far beyond selling whale tchotchkes and pretty pictures.
He’s got a heckuva marketing and media machine deployable as an agent of change that really moves into high gear…(partially bio-diesel to boot) Brilliant. I’m hoping the eco-literacy NCLI Act passes promptly in the Senate, since it made it through the House, as Wyland is primed to incorporate environmental arts and sciences into hands-on education with kids that instills these important messages early and often.
Congratulations to the Wyland Foundation team for innovation…And to the very charming, low key gent himself that we had the honor of sharing our thoughts with over lunch coming out of the Disney Earth premiere…It’s SO refreshing to meet an extraordinarily grounded, personable, creative spirit who does NOT have a whale of an ego trying to make a big splash like so many of my industry brethren.
Wyland darts through the crowds with his piercing blue eyes, and trademark hat and tat which makes him immediately identifiable…
And yet? He seems more interested in contributing to the cause than the commercialism…which is part of his appeal. Check out the video below, you’ll see what I mean…he seems like he’s first and foremost having fun!
He’s either comfortable enough in his own skin to ignore the glare and flash of ‘Hollyweird’ as he calls it, or centered enough in his Laguna/Aliso Viejo environs to overcome the pop culture flesh press knowing he can retreat to the sea.
Either way, he’s one cool character and kindred water spirit that I’m proud to support and applaud. (and no, I’m NOT ever ‘paid to pitch’ as this WSJ article blog story reveals elsewhere; yowza!)
Enjoy the 13th annual Childrens Water Education Festival next week, Wyland…
Know that you’re Shaping Youth through art and media in ways that few others on the planet can! Encore!
Visual Credits: Wyland Long Beach/kids photo by Jeff Gritchen, LB Press-Telegraph, dolphin poster via Honolulu-Advertiser; others as attributed within
Here’s a great little news clip of Wyland prepping to paint the Earth, and jimnista’s Flickr Photostream showing his work in progress!