A coral heart bleeds on a wall in East Boston. Surrounding it are vivid colors and images of fish, seals, and other sea life. It’s all part of a new 150-square-foot mural painted by Colombian-American artist Felipe Ortiz for Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans, an international public art initiative addressing climate change and ocean deterioration conceived by the nonprofit PangeaSeed Foundation.
Sea Walls Boston, presented by donor Linda Cabot and HarborArts, stretches its messaging across seven brand-new murals in East Boston, each completed by a local artist. Ortiz’s work, titled “The Heart of the Ocean,” is the local project’s final installment for 2020. (A larger, 10-mural project is planned for next year in East Boston.) The new painting calls attention to warming and acidification in the waters around New England, issues that cause the loss of endangered species and degradation of biodiversity worldwide.
“The warming seas can be seen in many places, not just the East Coast,” Ortiz said in a phone interview. “All of our oceans are connected, so if anything happens in one ecosystem it’s like a domino effect.”
For this particular piece, Ortiz attached sheets of metal to the building to ensure a smooth surface to paint on. Inspired by the rapid warming of the Gulf of Maine, he included underwater creatures native to New England and Colombia. Ortiz regularly works in murals, citing the impact of large-scale, public pieces on the communities where they reside.
“A lot of artists travel for projects and stay momentarily in a place, but we have to keep in mind that the residents will see it every single day,” Ortiz said.
“The Heart of the Ocean” covers a wall adjacent to the Bremen Park Condominiums (260 Bremen St.), owned and operated by Massachusetts-born brothers David and Evan Lank of Sharpe Venture Group. After surveying the land near their building, Evan Lank connected with Sea Walls project director Matthew Pollock to offer the wall for a mural. That’s when Pollock brought on Ortiz, who lives in the Greater Boston area.
“We look for as many opportunities as we can to breathe life, character, soul, and passion into our real estate so they’re more than just buildings,” David Lank said.
The mural was completed two weeks ago and was dedicated on Tuesday morning. Also introduced at the public unveiling was a plaque explaining the significance of the piece.
“We’d love it if people paid more attention to climate change and how our actions directly impact our oceans,” David Lank said. “East Boston was ocean estuary until it was infilled in the 1800s. It feels like a responsibility of the landowners and inhabitants of the city of Boston.”
Grace Griffin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @GraceMGriffin