ISLAMORADA, Florida Keys — At the History of Diving Museum at mile marker 82.9 in Islamorada, Florida Keys visitors can take an artistic “surface interval” between dive trips to view the new exhibit, “Dive Into Art: Coral Creations,” on display through April 17.
The museum collaborated with Keys artists from the Art Guild of the Purple Isles and students from Key Largo to Key West to create works of art themed to inspire coral conservation.
“Each year the Dive Into Art program is designed to bring awareness to a different issue or topic regarding our waters,” said Lisa Mongelia, executive director of the History of Diving Museum. “Given last year’s coral events, ‘Coral Creations’ was a natural fit for 2024.
“The exhibit informs guests about current restoration efforts while they meander through the beautiful works of art and creative pieces on display,” Mongelia added.
In addition to paintings, drawings and sculpture by students, there are five large trash barrels that have been colorfully decorated with coral reef motifs by students from Coral Shores and Marathon high schools. After the exhibit, they will be donated to the Village of Islamorada Parks and Recreation department to be placed around town.
Art Guild member Karen Beal took inspiration from Christine and Margaret Wertheim’s touring exhibition, “Crochet Coral Reef,” in creating her “On the Healthy Reef” crocheted depiction of coral reef polyps. The fiber art displays how healthy corals replicate in mathematical order, creating colorful colonies that attract all manner of other sea life, while bleached white areas of coral leave only an empty shell of the former colony.
Art students from Coral Shores High School filled a glassed-in cabinet with a mixed media display depicting a thriving coral reef populated with sea creatures including sea urchins, starfish, sponges, jellyfish, octopus and multiple species of fish commonly seen on Keys reefs.
Artist Cassandra Clark provided several vivid representations of the Keys’ underwater world that include octopus and sea turtles — images she often uses in her paintings, jewelry and tattoo art.
The artistic depictions of coral found along the continental United States’ only coral barrier reef are paired with educational information from Keys coral restoration practitioners and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. This information enlightens museum visitors about the island chain’s reefs, programs to rebuild and protect them, and ways everyone can help and participate.
Partners providing interpretive information include the Coral Restoration Foundation, I.CARE, Mote Marine Laboratory, Reef Relief and Reef Renewal.
This year’s “Dive Into Art” theme is inspired and supported by the Jerry Garcia Foundation. The Grateful Dead lead guitarist, an artist from childhood, had a lifelong love of the ocean. The foundation is donating limited museum-quality giclees of Garcia’s art, which are available for purchase at the museum with all proceeds supporting the featured exhibit and educational outreach.
The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information, visit divingmuseum.org.
The Dive Into Art: Coral Creations exhibit, on display at the History of Diving Museum, includes works of art themed to inspire coral conservation. Photos by JoNell Modys
Artist Cassandra Clark's vivid representations of the Keys underwater world on the coral reef include octopus and sea turtles -- images she often uses in her painting, jewelry and tattoo art.
The fiber art presentation of a crocheted coral reef by artist Karen Beal shows how healthy, colorful coral grows exponentially, while white bleached coral leaves an empty shell of the former colony.