Gulf oil spill research gets artistic boost from Guy Harvey contest
In April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill dumped an estimated 5 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, adversely impacting one of the most ecologically sensitive areas in the world. This spill affected deep water, open-ocean and coastal ecosystems and shut down a vital U.S. fishery.
In response to this disaster, world-renowned marine artist and conservationist Guy Harvey launched the “Save Our Gulf” campaign through his Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation. The GHOF funds scientific research and educational programs to encourage conservation and best management practices for sustainable marine environments.
Featuring two new designs centered around Gulf wildlife, the GHOF partnered with Guy Harvey apparel licensee Aftco Bluewater to print limited edition t-shirts featuring the new artwork. Ten dollars from the sale of each of these shirts was dedicated to the “Save Our Gulf” fund. In approximately two months, 50,000 t-shirts were sold out and $500,000 was raised for Gulf fisheries research programs. Subsequently, research grants have been awarded to research centers and state universities throughout the Gulf region to study the impact of the spilled oil on blue fin tuna, shark, grouper, red drum and other game fish. There is also a water toxicity study underway to look at the impact of the oil on baitfish.
As part of the “Save Our Gulf” outreach campaign, the GHOF teamed with the Sun Sentinel’s Newspapers in Education program to create the “Save Our Gulf Art and Essay Contest.” The contest was open to students in first through 12th grades throughout South Florida, Pinellas and Escambia counties. Participants created an original work of art depicting the oil spill’s impact on marine life in the Gulf. The response was overwhelming, with hundreds of submissions from students of all ages and abilities demonstrating their appreciation of marine life and their desire to promote ocean conservation.
Prizes were awarded in the categories of Most Realistic, Most Creative, Most Colorful, Mixed Media and Most Conservation-Minded. Elementary and middle school students were required to also write a brief paragraph explaining their artwork. High school participants included a 500-word essay explaining how research can be applied to sustainability of Gulf fisheries. Entries were then judged by Guy Harvey, fellow marine artist Wyland and the staff of the Sun Sentinel.
“It is quite remarkable,” said Guy Harvey. “Not only in the creativity of the artwork but also in the thoughtfulness of their essays. You can tell that the kids put their hearts and emotions into their projects.”
The creativity of the artwork also caught the attention of the International Game Fish Association. The IGFA will host an exhibition of the contest finalists at the Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum in Dania Beach beginning on June 10, and the exhibit will be on display throughout the summer.
“We are proud to be a part of Guy Harvey’s ‘Save Our Gulf’ campaign,” said IGFA Chief Operating Officer Mike Myatt. “The Gulf oil spill put unprecedented pressure on the fishery. It’s good that the students are aware of this and have the desire to help bring attention to the problem.”
Guy Harvey will be appearing at the IGFA on June 10 for the official grand opening of the “Save Our Gulf” exhibition.
Steve Stock is president of Guy Harvey Inc., based in Davie.