In 2007, crowds of people watched internationally acclaimed marine life artist Wyland create a massive panoramic mural showcasing the Florida Keys’ underwater world. Located at the gateway to the Keys in Key Largo, the 7,500-square-foot mural wrapped around all four sides of a four-story building at mile marker 99.2, in the median of the Keys’ Overseas Highway.
From Oct. 12-21, the artist and environmental advocate who lives in the Upper Keys is planning to do something even bigger.
Wyland, who credits the Keys reefs with inspiring much of his world-renowned marine life artistry, will spend 10 days restoring and repainting his three monumental outdoor murals along the island chain.
All three depict marine creatures that inhabit the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef, which parallels the Keys — and he created all three to increase awareness of that vibrant ecosystem and motivate people to preserve and protect it.
“We want to inspire the public to see the beauty of the Florida waters and the Florida Keys in particular through public art, and we want to restore those murals so they will continue to inspire,” explained Wyland, who volunteers his time to create his public art murals.
(The paint, by the way, is being donated by the Dunn Edwards Corporation, which deserves many kudos for supporting such a worthy environmental project.)
Watching Wyland paint is fascinating since he works freehand, confidently outlining massive marine creatures with sweeping lines and then layering color and adding detail. Yet observing him at work isn’t the only attraction for visitors to the mural sites.
At each site, you can explore the Wyland Clean Water Mobile Learning Experience (the Wyland Foundation’s interactive science center on wheels), discover the artist’s recent paintings and sculptures in a traveling gallery, and even hear live music from members of the Wyland Blues Planet Band.
“What I’m planning is to bring the Wyland experience — the art, the conservation, the community — together,” Wyland explained. “We’re inviting everyone to join us to bring the message of conservation, with the goal of inspiring people to be ambassadors for the planet.”
Wyland himself has been an ambassador for the planet throughout his career. He uses his art to encourage people to protect the world’s oceans, waterways and marine life — and notables from scientist Jane Goodall to former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan have lauded his environmental commitment.
“It is one of the premiere dive destinations on the planet,” he said, “and the beauty that I see in the Florida Keys is reflected in my paintings, sculptures and murals.”
In addition, the artist often gets involved in the community. On Saturday, Oct. 13, he’ll be master of ceremonies at the grand re-opening luau for Snook’s Bayside in Key Largo. Destroyed in a fire and subsequently rebuilt, the local landmark will welcome old and new patrons for an evening of fun, food, and frolic.
A few days later, Oct. 18, Wyland will host a screening of his documentary, “Blues Planet: Sounds,” at Key West’s Tennessee Williams Theatre. He’ll also create sumi brush art, with proceeds from its sale benefiting the local college’s Wyland Marine Science Scholarship Fund.
Wyland invites everyone who loves the oceans to join him in the Florida Keys to be part of his 10-day art-and-environment experience. Don’t miss it!