Art takes nature as its model. ~ Aristotle
Just as nature inspires art, art inspires actions to defend wild places and the wild creatures that live in them. With this in mind, the Center for Biological Diversity is launching an Endangered Species Mural Project, teaming up with local artists to bring endangered wildlife onto the streets through art in cities and towns around the country. Spearheaded by Portland artist Roger Peet, the mural project will feature wildlife species that are special to their regions, promoting an affinity for the natural world and the diverse species that help define it.
One of the project’s most high-profile murals to date — located on a high school campus in downtown Los Angeles — portrays endangered yellow-billed cuckoos soaring above self-portraits painted by fifteen female migrant students, led by artist Jess X Chen, with assistance from activist Tani Ikeda's project ImMEDIAte Justice. This mural, finished in April 2016, explores the link between the movement of human beings and the migration of at-risk wildlife — in this case, rare songbirds that fly between South and North America — offering a commentary on social and ecological justice and the connections between conservation and community strength.
The Endangered Species Mural Project has so far sponsored nine other murals — of the mountain caribou in Sandpoint, Idaho; the Arctic grayling in Butte, Montana; the monarch butterfly in Minneapolis, Minnesota; the watercress darter in Birmingham, Alabama; the gray whale and the yellow-billed cuckoo in Los Angeles; the jaguar in Tucson, Arizona; the pink mucket pearly mussel in Knoxville, Tennessee; and (with a July unveiling) the white fringeless orchid in Berea, Kentucky.
Upcoming murals will depict the hellbender salamander in Little Rock, Arkansas; the marbled murrelet in Arcata, California, and the eulachon in Portland, Oregon. With additional funding, the Center hopes to continue to work with local artists and expand our project to even more cities nationwide.
A Message From the Artist
"Everywhere on Earth is unique, with qualities that distinguish it from other places both near and far. One of those qualities is the biodiversity of a place — the plants and animals that call it home and may not be found anywhere else. Those species embody an area’s natural history and contribute to what makes it irreplaceable. They also have something to say about the future, as many are in danger of going extinct. And when we lose species, the places and lives we live become poorer and shallower places as a result. To help bring these species into the light, we decided to paint them on the walls.
"The goal of this project is to create murals in towns and cities around the United States that focus on endangered species, fostering connections between people and the other forms of life that surround them. Whether that’s a fish in a river, a butterfly flitting from plant to plant, or a caribou chewing lichen off a tree trunk, we’re bringing together artists and communities to create big, bold images that will become part of the neighborhoods where they’re created, making it a little easier for people to care about the native species struggling to survive in their midst."
Roger Peet is a Portland-based artist who is coordinating this project in association with the Center for Biological Diversity.
Mountain caribou mural in Sandpoint, Idaho. Mural artists Mazatl and Joy Mallari (from the Justseeds Artists Cooperative) worked with Roger Peet.
Arctic grayling mural by Roger Peet in Butte, Mont.
Whale mural by Icy & Sot (working in coordination with Roger Peet) in Los Angeles, California. Photo © Jess X. Chen.
Monarch butterfly mural in Minneapolis, Minn., by Roger Peet and Barry Newman.
Watercress darter mural in Birmingham, Ala., by Roger Peet and Birmingham artists Merrilee Challiss and Creighton Tynes. Photo by Kyle Crider.