video by Marcus Oania
The 8th Funky Fish Town
Portland artists Blaine Fontana and Jeremy Nichols (aka Plastic Birdie) completed this massive mural in 8 days. It’s the largest SHINE mural of 2019 and required over 400 cans of spray paint.
This mural was created in collaboration with PangeaSeed Foundation’s Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans program. Sea Walls is PangeaSeed Foundation’s public art project that brings the ocean into the streets, educating and inspiring individuals and communities through ARTivism.
This mural and the Vitale Bros mural are the first two public art projects ever funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA). The local NOAA Fisheries office initiated this project to highlight the importance of our local Florida fisheries and the agency’s work surrounding ecosystems management.
The artists designed the mural to look like a page out of a science book. It incorporates specific information about 7 of Florida’s vital local fisheries. Through NOAA regulation, they work in tandem to develop fisheries management practices to help prevent overfishing and native species eradication, to ensure healthy oceans.
This collaboration between Blaine Fontana and Plastic Birdie is called Eighth Funky Fish Town. It’s on the Pinellas Trail just east of 28th Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues South. And it’s huge – twenty-three feet high and one hundred and seventy-five feet wide.
The background of the mural is white. The left half contains seven pegs painted like protruding 3-D buttons, with information about seven of Florida’s local fisheries.
In the middle of the mural is a coral reef with bright, giant Florida fish. On on the right is more coral, an eel, and several arrows pointing to the right.
The pegs on the left are different sizes and colors, and all large, with painted shadows down and to the left under each peg, and text to the right about each location. A silhouette of Florida shows each location, and a thin black line connects each peg to the next.
Number 1, on the far left, has a red peg, with information about nearby Madeira Beach and grouper fishing.
Down and to the right in orange is number 2, Panama City, known for fishing and also for sugar sand beaches.
In yellow up and to the right is number three, Cortez, a fishing community for six generations.
A huge light green peg, down and to the right, is number four – Apalachicola, where 90% of Florida’s oysters are harvested.
A small slate blue peg up to the right is number five, Steinhatchee, called the scallop capital of the world.
Below and to the right is a deep blue peg, number six, Matlacha [“mat-lah-shay”], “a funky fishing town with a lot of art.”
Above and to the right, in purple, is number seven, Key West, “the historic Conch Republic.”
To the right of the Key West peg and swimming straight into it is a large grey manta ray, wings spread and speckled with white dots, with a white underbelly. The ray is swimming out of an enormous coral reef as high as the wall, with yellow coral branches and light and dark blue coral tubes and bulbous shapes. The reef marks a halfway point in the mural.
A large, dark red grouper with blue and purple markings, swims to the left, out of the yellow branches coral at the top. Another enormous grouper in vibrant shades of orange and white, with gold fins, swims in front of the coral and looks directly at you, unimpressed.
Behind this grouper, wide angled bands of aqua, navy, yellow, white and gray cross the mural from top to bottom, bending in a line at the center, as if the wall were folding inwards.
A wide, tan arrow shoots out from the bands and heads to the right, ending at a clump of red coral below, and a large green eel above, jaws gaping and turned to the right. The eel is muscular and and shaded, like it’s swimming out of the top of the mural, on the hunt.
From behind the eel, eight more wide arrows span to the right, each one outlined in a contrasting color – blues, reds, tan, white, orange and green. The arrows end near the right edge of the wall. At the top right are the artists’ signatures.
Blaine Fontana is an artist and designer based in Portland, Oregon. His work has a mythical and folkloric tone rich in symbolism.
Jeremy Nicholls, known as Plastic Birdie, is also a Portland artist. His work tends to focus on the energy, movement, balance and harmony of chaos.
This mural is part of the Seawalls Artist for Oceans project, PangeaSeed Foundation’s public art program that brings the oceans into streets around the world. The artists used information from NOAA (“noah”) for the fishery locations and details about Florida fish life.
The Seawalls project says “this unique mural, like a page out of a science textbook, serves as a one-of-a-kind hyper-local information graphic system highlighting the importance, struggle and historical relevance of local Florida Gulf fishing communities, in a time when industrial fishing is depleting our oceans.”