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Project Description: 

“From Sea to Street” is a citizen science initiative (CSI) aimed at addressing key challenges facing the ocean (marine ecosystem) today. The project answers the question of whether and how murals, a specific form of street art, can inspire people to take care of coastal and ecosystems and their sustainable use in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Project Type: Kick Starter
Theme: Healthy Planet, Biodiversity
Mentor: Carolina Dopico González

Colours of the coast: The journey “From Sea to Street” through the global language of art

Murals, striking works of art painted directly on walls, have the potential to inspire, educate, and illuminate crucial issues, including human–environment relationships. This is the idea behind the project “From Sea to Street”, a citizen science initiative that collected marine-themed murals and investigated which emotions they evoke in the viewer.

The project was implemented as a collaboration between the University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain), the Latvian Academy of Culture, and the Athena Institute at Vrije University Amsterdam (Netherlands).

Mural by Tamara Baz at the Camino Portugués in Mougás (Pontevedra), Spain. Photo taken by Sophia Kochalski.

In early 2023, young scientists from the three countries began working together on this project and were quickly joined by other colleagues from Germany, Italy and Sweden. The interdisciplinary team saw murals as having the potential to bridge the gap between urban populations and coastal and marine environments and strengthen people’s connection to the sea and the ocean. IMPETUS gave them the framework, approach, and training to make this idea a reality.

Street art tour with Rihards Bražinskis in Riga, Latvia. Photo taken by Edgar Šulcs.

The team adopted an approach that involved encouraging the general population to seek out murals depicting coastal landscapes, marine life, fishing communities, or aquatic mythological figures. Individuals were then prompted to submit photos and pinpoint the locations of these murals to contribute to a growing collaborative database. By the project’s conclusion, this collective effort had amassed nearly 200 murals.

But is art truly complete without resonating with an observer? As a unique innovation, viewers were encouraged to also express the emotions, memories, and thoughts associated with the murals.

One of the big opportunities and challenges lay in the collaboration between the different countries. While marine-themed murals are not an everyday sight in Latvia, the team estimated that there may be around 300 of them in the Spanish project region of Galicia. That’s why they supplemented the citizen science approach with a survey in which everybody could participate even without their mural. By combining these two approaches, the team was able to collect 250 individual statements about the impact of the murals on the viewer.

To achieve all of this and more, the team worked closely with the arts community in their respective countries. In Spain, the project’s kick-off took place during the street art festival “Viladomar” in the coastal fishing town of Rianxo, which is organised annually by artists for artists, such as the project’s collaborator and muralist Nove Noel. In Latvia, in collaboration with street art and graffiti enthusiast Rihards Bražinskis, the project team organised street art tours for students and residents in the coastal city Liepāja and the capital city Rīga. In the Netherlands, “From Sea to Street” hosted a collaborative seminar with the Street Art Museum Amsterdam (SAMA), including a guided tour and an enlightening lecture by the museum’s managing director Anna Stolyarova.

During the final event of the project, which took place in collaboration with the Interdisciplinary Community Service Learning course, students created their artistic elements under the supervision of an experienced spray paint artist.

Mural by Pilar Alonso located at the “Senda Verde”/ old train station in Chapela (Pontevedra), Spain. Photo taken by Diego B.

The “From Sea to Street” project team takes pride in the strong bonds they’ve forged within their team and across country boundaries. Additionally, they are delighted with the heightened awareness they have generated for ocean-related themes and the significant role of street art. Looking ahead to 2024, they aim to deepen these connections, analyse the datasets, and share the outcomes through online platforms, scientific conferences, and city festivals.

Stay tuned for updates by following the project on their social media!

Social media for the “From Sea to Street” project:

From Sea to Street – Video