Sea turtle murals

(From left to right) Local artists Sandra Urie, Reynaldo Alvarado Jr. and Christine Salazar pose in front of the mural they made for Gerry the Atlantic Sea Turtle’s home.


Photo 2: Merry Christmas, Allison, Hang Ten and Fred patiently wait for their grey tanks to soon be painted with vibrant and colorful murals.

Photo 5: (From left to right) Local artists Sandra Urie, Reynaldo Alvarado Jr. and Christine Salazar pose in front of the mural they made for Gerry the Atlantic Sea Turtle’s home.

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — The next time you visit the non-releasable sea turtles in Sea Turtle’s Inc.’s education complex, you’re going to notice tremendous and colorful new additions to each of their homes.

With coffee in hand and smiling faces, local artists were excited to say hello to the turtles and have another productive day of painting.

For the past two weeks, Sandra Urie, Reynaldo Alvarado Jr. and Christine Salazar have been painting Gerry the Atlantic sea turtle’s 56,000-gallon aquarium.

On the left side of his tank, a large Atlantic green sea turtle can be seen catching one of Gerry’s favorite treats, a big, juicy squid.

If weather permits, the final touches on his mural will be done sometime this week.

Sea turtles with issues, such as not being able to dive, missing 75 percent of their flippers or have birth defects are deemed unsuitable to be released into the wild. Therefore, Sea Turtle Inc. is their forever home.

In total, there are five non-releasable residents that each have unique stories to tell. They serve as educational ambassadors to their species and have their forever home at the facility.

Each mural will be completed in phases.

So far, three of the tanks have already been sponsored. However, as of date, two are still available for a one time donation of $5,000.

Hang Ten’s tank is the next one that will be painted.

Sea Turtle Inc. personnel believe the art commissioned for the turtles will be an impactful and educational tool for the facility.

“The murals will bring our visitors closer to the underwater environments in our area and enhance their educational experience,” said Sea Turtle Inc. executive director Jeff George.

From the designing, to the drawing, this whole process took about two to three weeks.

Salazar described the start of this aquatic mural series as fate after a day at the beach led her toward this project.

“I decided to take the day off and went to the beach,” she said. “Jeff George was at the beach too about three or four feet away. So, he explained to me how much Sea Turtle Inc. has grown and told me about how they would like to see more artwork on the tanks and in the facility. So, if I hadn’t taken the day off, I wouldn’t have had that conversation.”

Salazar says she grew up seeing the work that late Sea Turtle Inc. founder Ila Fox Loetscher did and feels honored to be able to work on this project.

She hopes it will bring more attention to the animals and the facility.

“Unfortunately, these turtles aren’t able to be released, but everybody loves color so we’re hoping that maybe the murals will spike a little bit of energy amongst the turtles,” Salazar said. “Also, if I were a kid and walked in here I would be wowed. So, I hope the murals will also attract more visitors to the facility.”

Prior to starting this project, Urie visited the Galapagos Islands.

She says her visit inspired her to protect oceanic wildlife and made her realize how delicate animals are and understand the fine line between destruction of a species or preservation.

“Most people are visual,” Urie said. “So I think it stimulates the thought process and when they see the beautiful art and these delicate creatures, I hope visitors will also think about protecting these delicate animals.”