APRIL 15, 2021, MA`ALAEA, MAUI, HI – In honor of Earth Day, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) commissioned a mural to be painted at the Maui Ocean Center (MOC) that highlights the perils faced by coral reefs. Hawai‘i-born artist Jana Ireijo, who creates ephemeral ‘vanishing’ murals that illustrate the impacts of climate change on vulnerable species and habitats around the world, was enlisted by TNC to create the mural in partnership with the Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute.
“I am inspired by the beauty and fragility of our natural environment,” says Irejio. “My mission with these murals is to raise awareness and inspire a sense of urgency to take action – to let the murals vanish so our natural environment does not.”
The mural will feature Hawai‘i’s spectacular marine life in brilliant hues, however some of its colors will fade over a period of weeks, similar to how corals can bleach and die when subjected to prolonged increases in ocean temperatures caused by climate change.
“Coral reefs are the backbone of our islands’ economy, supporting the lives and livelihoods of our local communities,” says Kim Hum, TNC’s Hawai‘i Marine Program Director. “Coral bleaching occurs when ocean temperatures increase above normal seasonal levels, as happened in 2015 when we lost 30% of our living coral reefs statewide. This destruction is something few people see because it occurs below the ocean’s surface. Ms. Ireijo’s creative approach allows people to visualize what’s happening to our reefs without getting wet.”
The reefs that line Hawai‘i’s coasts are environmental, economic, recreational and cultural treasures that provide flood protection and jobs valued at more than $836 million, support nearshore fisheries worth $13.4 million, and contribute more than $1.2 billion through reef-related tourism to the state’s economy. Local pressures from overfishing and land-based pollutants have contributed to a 60% decline in living coral reefs in some areas over the past 40 years.
“Our organizations work to restore and protect Hawai‘i’s coral reefs, and the impacts of climate change add to our challenges,” says Tommy Cutt, Executive Director of the Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute. “We are delighted to partner with TNC to raise awareness of this issue through this ephemeral art.”
Guests can watch Ms. Ireijo create the mural at the Nalu Lawn through April 21 (weather permitting). “Maui Ocean Center is proud to host Ms. Ireijo and showcase her compelling work,” adds MOC General Manager Tapani Vuori.
The finished mural will be unveiled on Earth Day, April 22, and then vanish at the mercy of the elements over the ensuing weeks. For the health, safety, and well-being of guests and staff, MOC currently offers limited and timed entry. To arrange a visit, go to mauioceancenter.com.
To learn more about Ms. Ireijo’s art, visit janaireijoart.com.