Maui News

‘Vanishing’ Mural at Maui Ocean Center Highlights Plight of Hawai‘i’s Coral Reefs

April 15, 2021, 1:45 PM HST
* Updated April 18, 7:55 PM
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For Earth Day, Hawaii-born artist Jana Ireijo is painting a “vanishing” mural at the Maui Ocean Center that highlights the perils faced by Hawaiʻi’s coral reefs. Photo Courtesy: Maui Ocean Center

In honor of Earth Day, The Nature Conservancy commissioned Hawaii-born artist Jana Ireijo to paint a mural at the Maui Ocean Center that highlights the perils faced by Hawaiʻi’s coral reefs.

Ireijo creates ephemeral ‘vanishing’ murals that illustrate the impacts of climate change on vulnerable species and habitats around the world.

“I am inspired by the beauty and fragility of our natural environment,” Irejio said. “My mission with these murals is to raise awareness and inspire a sense of urgency to take action – to let the murals vanish so our natural environment does not.”

Jana Ireijo

The mural will feature Hawai‘i’s spectacular marine life in brilliant hues, however some of its colors will fade over a period of weeks, similar to how corals can bleach and die when subjected to prolonged increases in ocean temperatures caused by climate change. 

“Coral reefs are the backbone of our islands’ economy, supporting the lives and livelihoods of our local communities,” said Kim Hum, The Nature Conservancy’s Hawai‘i Marine Program Director. “Coral bleaching occurs when ocean temperatures increase above normal seasonal levels, as happened in 2015 when we lost 30% of our living coral reefs statewide. This destruction is something few people see because it occurs below the ocean’s surface. Ms. Ireijo’s creative approach allows people to visualize what’s happening to our reefs without getting wet.”

The reefs that line Hawai‘i’s coasts are environmental, economic, recreational and cultural treasures that provide flood protection and jobs valued at more than $836 million; support nearshore fisheries worth $13.4 million; and contribute more than $1.2 billion through reef-related tourism to the state’s economy. Local pressures from overfishing and land-based pollutants have contributed to a 60 percent decline in living coral reefs in some areas over the past 40 years. 

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“Our organizations work to restore and protect Hawai‘i’s coral reefs, and the impacts of climate change add to our challenges,” said Tommy Cutt, Executive Director of the Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute. “We are delighted to partner with The Nature Conservancy to raise awareness of this issue through this ephemeral art.” 

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Guests can watch Ireijo create the mural at the Nalu Lawn through April 21 (weather permitting).

“Maui Ocean Center is proud to host Ms. Ireijo and showcase her compelling work,” Maui Ocean Center General Manager Tapani Vuori said.  

The finished mural will be unveiled on Earth Day, April 22, and then vanish at the mercy of the elements over the ensuing weeks. For the health, safety and well-being of guests and staff, Maui Ocean Center currently offers limited and timed entry. To arrange a visit, go to mauioceancenter.com

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For more information on local efforts to protect Hawai‘i’s nearshore marine environment, visit nature.org/hawaii and mocmarineinstitute.org. To learn more about Ms. Ireijo’s art, visit janaireijoart.com.

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