Art, Advocacy, and Action for Right Whales
May 13, 2019

On May 5th, Bow Seat joined forces with the New England Aquarium and Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) to present the Right Whale Festival, a celebration of efforts to help protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. Despite the gray and rainy day, hundreds came out to learn from and connect with others who care about this iconic species.

Hosted a day before the release of a United Nations report warning that human activity is causing the disappearance and destruction of wildlife at a rate that threatens the very survival of humanity, the Festival brought attention and visibility to an issue that is often difficult to “see”: extinction. The goal of our collaboration was to create a memorable event that engaged minds, hearts, and hands through scientific research, compelling artwork, and calls-to-action to advocate for ocean-friendly policies in the region.

Less than 420 North Atlantic right whales currently swim in the waters off our coast, and many scientists predict that they are likely to go extinct in the next 20 years if we do not intervene. Right whales were hunted for centuries, pushing the species to the brink; now, due to global warming, increasing industrialization, and pollution, humans are inadvertently continuing to harm the whales. Yet, as demonstrated by the hundreds of people who attended the Festival, it is humans who can save them.

“Hope is a belief that what we do might matter, an understanding that the future is not yet written.” — Rebecca Solnit

Year of the Right Whale is an initiative that strives to celebrate, educate, and fundraise for right whales to ensure the species receives adequate protection by 2020.

With a focus on the efforts of local youth activists, the Festival included a range of activities to bring attention to the threats facing right whales and provided guests with inspiration and information to take action, including:

  • Exhibition of award-winning student artwork from the Healthy Whale, Healthy Ocean Challenge, presented by Bow Seat and CLF;
  • Presentations by the Calvineers, a group of 7th and 8th grade conservationists from the Adams School in Castine, Maine;
  • Making tiles for Our Climate’s right whale mosaic, a life-size public art installation raising awareness of climate action; and
  • Connecting with Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life researchers, Aquarium educators and teen conservationists, and local organizations dedicated to protecting the health of our human and natural communities, including Women Working for Oceans, Mass Environmental Trust, and Earth Detectives.

Vermont-based artist/scientist Kristian Brevik’s “ghost whale” sculptures illuminate the entangled relationship between humans and the North Atlantic right whale.

The Festival also included a panel discussion with scientists and activists working to save the right whale. The discussion was moderated by National Geographic photographer and New England Aquarium Explorer-In-Residence Brian Skerry, and included panelists:

  • Marianna Hagbloom, a Research Assistant with the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life’s Right Whale Research Program;
  • Erica Fuller, a Senior Attorney at CLF;
  • Isabella Ceresia, a junior at Holliston High School and a member of the Aquarium’s ClimaTeens and live blue™ Ambassadors programs; and
  • Emily Adams, a student at Falmouth High School and Gold Award art winner in the Healthy Whale, Healthy Ocean Challenge.

Panelists explored how art is a powerful tool for activism; why environmental conservation needs to be be inclusive and multi-generational; and the urgent threats facing North Atlantic right whales—and the actions individuals can take to help protect them.

Emily Adams’ sculpture “Public Awareness” earned a Gold Award in visual art in the Healthy Whale, Healthy Ocean Challenge, presented by Bow Seat and CLF.

A very special part of this year’s Festival was our awards ceremony to honor the student winners of the 2019 Healthy Whale, Healthy Ocean Challenge, which invited K-12 students from the Gulf of Maine region to use their creative voices to raise awareness of the right whale and the need for conservation of marine ecosystems. Bow Seat and CLF were thrilled to present awards to nearly 40 young artists, poets, and filmmakers ranging in age from 6-18. View all of their inspiring work here.

Thank you to everyone who joined us at the Festival to celebrate awareness, care, and action for right whales and our ocean. We all have a role to play as active caretakers of our communities, and we are hopeful and motivated to be a part of an incredible network of people—young, old, and everywhere in between—who are doing important and inspiring work. Let’s keep creating, sharing, collaborating, and using our voices to raise awareness of this special species—and all those on our blue planet—in desperate need of our protection.

Here are some ways you can help:

Photography: Alex Nendza

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Art, Advocacy, and Action for Right Whales