Public art can serve many different functions. It can help raise awareness about certain issues, beautify a space, claim an area, or even make a bold political statement about a subject about which the artist deeply cares. These are all amazing reasons to participate in and make art in a public setting, and there’s one festival that tries to encapsulate all of these reasons into a single event.
Taking place this year in Napier New Zealand, Sea Walls is a festival dedicated to art, the ocean, and everything that makes both of these things important and necessary. This year, the festival took place over eleven days in March and was comprised of many different kinds of events and moments, all of which were dedicated to promoting and drawing awareness to ocean conservation issues that effect the local area. The festival is different from most other street artist festivals in that it moves around. Previously, Sea Walls drew attention to ocean conservation issues in cities like Los Angeles, Vietnam, Mexico and Sri Lanka. The festival is put on by the international nonprofit, the PangeaSeed Foundation.
New Zealand is home to some of the most unique and interesting ocean environments in the world, including plenty of important coral reefs and ocean creatures that diversify the ocean landscape and make it stronger and healthier. But, like many other natural spaces around the world, New Zealand’s oceans are facing a number of different threats, from pollution to the impact of rising water temperatures.
Sea Walls tries to use public art and a street art festival to do three major things: beautify Napier’s streetscape, raise awareness about local ocean conservation issues, and to make bold statements about the importance of our world’s oceans. The goal is important and artists certainly seemed to agree: they came from around the world to participate in and create some beautiful pieces in support of Sea Walls’ project and goals.
Even Napier’s City Council was on board for the festival, donating over $30,000 to help the festival with its costs, mostly to help the artists come and do their work. This move is especially important, since street art and local government are often seen as at odds. But Sea Walls has proven time and again that the relationship between a government and street artists and muralists can not only be productive, but mutually beneficial.
Sea Walls is an important festival because it proves that street art, murals, and local issues can share a strong and mutually beneficial relationship. Since our world’s waters are some of the most interesting places we have on this earth, and the most delicate, any and all tactics to raise awareness and money are important for future life on earth. Organizations like PangeaSeed Foundation are using street art to help draw attention to specific issues and, in doing so, can help make a difference in important issues around the world.