AFC Artists Return from Successful Pilot Marine Explorers Program to Cayman Islands

Jeffrey Whiting - AFC
May 28, 2013 share
Reef Dive - Photo by Lorna Hamilton

On May 5, seven AFC members began jointly exploring the diverse and spectacular marine life of the southwestern Caribbean island of Grand Cayman with a goal to support its protection. Our expedition was particularly significant as it represented the launch of the new AFC "Marine Explorers" program aimed at supporting marine conservation and inspiring more artist involvement and depiction of marine wildlife.

The trip was a pilot under the new program delivered in collaboration with The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation. It was also very special in that the team was able to spend several days with AFC member - Dr. Guy Harvey himself, who shared his knowledge and experience and in some of his favorite diving sites around the island's turquoise coast. As an international leader in the marine conservation cause, Guy helped us learn first-hand about the diversity of turtles, rays, sharks, eels, groupers, angel fish, lion fish, parrot fish, tunas, tarpon, corals, sponges and countless other fishes, as well as some of the critical conservation issues affecting them.

Adding to the excitement, the expedition was also the subject of AFC's third documentary film and involved interviews with Guy and the participating artists and extensive filming above and below the water. The film will premier at the AFC Festival this fall in Vancouver, BC.  

We were a team of nine, including Guy and me, five other artists and two filmmakers. The other attending artists were Brent Cooke (sculptor from Canada), Lorna Hamilton (painter from Ireland), Dianne Munkittrick (painter from South Carolina), Betsy Popp (painter and sculptor from Wisconsin) and Frank Walsh (painter and sculptor from California). Our two filmmakers included Ken Whiting (TV and film producer and world champion whitewater kayaker) and Emmy-award-winner and space and marine expert, George Schellenger.

The trip offered the participating artists the opportunity to explore some extraordinary natural history features and phenomena, which I will expand upon e in subsequent parts to this blog article.

Highlights included:

  • Diving and hand-feeding Southern Atlantic Stingrays;
  • Observing endangered species of sea turtles, both in a captive environment - at the Cayman Turtle Farm - and in the wild;
  • Off-shore trolling for Marlin  - the world's fastest (and one of the largest) fish - and other large pelagic fishes.
  • Learning about unwelcome invasive species such as Lionfish and Green Iguanas;
  • Wading with giant feeding Tarpon;
  • Shipwreck diving and studying artificial reefs.

The expedition gave the group a chance to explore the area and learn ways to maximize the artistic experience. The trip rekindled a passion for scuba diving for those of us with past experience and even inspired one of us to earn a diving certificate. Most importantly every artist left keen to review the smorgasbord of reference material and get started on their own body of artwork to express the natural beauty under the waters of the Cayman Islands. We left with new friendships and greater mutual appreciation for each other as artists, and a deeper understanding of the commitment and actions that must be made to ensure pro. Dr. Guy Harvey was an inspiring role model for what is possible in using our artistic talents to be an effective voice for marine wildlife.

Looking ahead, we set our sights on producing an educational art exhibit to raise the profile of marine life and the challenges it faces, as well as funds to support marine conservation projects.

Over the coming days, we'll be posting a series of blog articles featuring some highlights of the expedition. Our hope is that this will inspire more artists to explore the underwater realm and join us on our next expedition within the AFC Marine Explorers program.

Yours in art, conservation and exploration.

Jeff Whiting
AFC President & Founder 

 

About the AFC Marine Explorers Program

The AFC Marine Explorers Program brings together teams of professional artists, leading subject matter experts and university level students on a unique endeavor to study marine wildlife, their environments and the conservation issues that concern them. The program works to further AFC’s mission to support conservation and environmental education through art that celebrates nature. By providing AFC artists a unique and inspiring opportunity to travel with experts and students, and to engage in close and personal encounter with the subject of their art, AFC aims to increase portrayal of marine life, elevate the educational value of the artwork produced and empower participating professional-level artists as more effective ambassadors for conservation. 

 

About Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation

 

The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation funds inspired scientific research and innovative educational programs to encourage conservation and best management practices for sustainable marine environments. The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation will help ensure that future generation can enjoy and benefit from a naturally balance marine ecosystem where fish and other wildlife flourish. For more information, visit http://www.guyharvey.com/guy-harvey-ocean-foundation/

 

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