Coral Canvas: Art for Ocean’s Sake

The UNITED and Mystic Aquarium are excited to partner on “Coral Canvas: Art for Ocean’s Sake,” a new gallery show and community art project to bring focus and attention to the global threats faced by coral reef ecosystems around the world due to increased ocean temperatures, pollution, and changing ocean chemistry. The gallery show, which will launch on Friday, June 7th, will feature a number of works that will serve as an expanding summer exhibition from the beginning of June through mid-to-late July. Artist Elizabeth Ellenwood will have two distinct works on display, and a community partnership with area schools and through community art workshops at the UNITED will create a growing, vibrant coral reef in the gallery composed of pieces of plastic waste. 


Ellenwood’s pieces include her Cyanotype Photograms created with collected items of trash from a beach walk at East Beach in Westerly, RI will highlight the illuminating yet haunting depiction of the billions of pounds of trash that find its way to the oceans each year. Her Fading Reefs exhibit will showcase how the ocean’s coral reefs are rapidly turning into anemic wastelands due to global warming, visually communicating coral bleaching through the light-sensitive photographic process of anthotype printing. Much like the coral reefs themselves, the prints in this collection develop as the sunlight destroys the pigment in the exposed areas of the plant emulsion, bleaching the print in ways that are unable to be fixed causing the prints to fade over time. 


Mystic Aquarium is a part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ SAFE coral program to inspire and mobilize AZA members, partners, and communities to save coral reefs from extinction, with a focus on species occurring in the western tropical Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. As a participant in this effort, Mystic Aquarium had agreed to house several species of Atlantic coral with the intent of restoring populations to their original range once stony coral tissue loss disease can be further identified and controlled.Information on this project will be featured as well as pieces of coral from the Aquarium’s collection on display in tanks. 


Events for the “Coral Canvas: Art for Ocean’s Sake” project will include the community opening event on Friday, June 7th (coinciding with the downtown Westerly’s First Fridays Arts Crawl); a community art workshops for plastic coral creation on Sunday, June 23rd; and a closeout party on Friday, August 2nd. The show will be on display with pieces of the plastic coral project growing from June 7th through August 5th.