#ESA50 National Mural and Art Series Celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act
By Ren Bettencourt, FOUR PAWS USA
The Endangered Species Act
December 28, 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). This landmark legislation protects vulnerable animals, both within the U.S. and around the globe, and has led to the successful recovery of species on the brink of extinction, such as the iconic bald eagle, the Channel Island Fox, and the green sea turtle.
In 1973, then president Richard Nixon signed the ESA into law after it passed through the Senate and House of Representatives with near unanimous bipartisan support (a vote of 92-0 in the Senate and 355-4 in the House). The ESA has endured the test of time and remains a long-lasting example of commitment, cooperation, and the conservation triumphs we can make when working together.
The ESA50 Coalition
FOUR PAWS is a member of the ESA50 coalition, a group of like-minded animal protection, conservation, and environmental organizations, as well as several government agencies, who’s work all intersects with endangered species in some capacity. This year, the coalition has come together for a year-long celebration of the ESA, which includes the national mural and art series, educational events and forums, advocacy opportunities, and an ESA50 Awards Ceremony and Gathering in Washington D.C. this past September.
The Endangered Species Mural and Art Series
A highlight of the ESA50 celebration, the national mural and art series features artwork created by coalition members across the United States that represent plants and animals protected by the ESA, which are important to their work or local region. The series features both species that are currently listed as endangered, as well as species that have successfully recovered thanks to this landmark legislation.
Learn more about all of the murals in the ESA50 series below!
Migration: A Natural Act is a striking portrayal of the natural magnificence of southwestern New Mexico, with a particular focus on its imperiled fauna. The mural highlights the Boreal Owl, Gila Monster, and two endangered fish species – the Chihuahua Chub and Roundtail Chub. Migration is a recurring theme of the artwork, with the river symbolizing the innate movement of humans and animals across the landscape. Read more here.
Location: 135 Joe Gutierrez St., Las Cruces, NM
About the Artist: Raquel Madrigal is an interdisciplinary artist with a degree in Fine Arts, who is widely known for her captivating murals, posters and zines that incorporate her unique poetry. Her murals, in particular, have garnered attention for their powerful narrative highlighting the struggles and triumphs of working-class families as well as the endangered species in Southern New Mexico.
This three-story tall mural in lower Manhattan is a collaboration between FOUR PAWS and urban contemporary artist, Sonny Sundancer. Featuring a tiger, the mural raises awareness about protecting tigers around the world—both in the wild and in captivity—and highlights our #BreakTheVicious Cycle campaign, which aims to ban the commercial trade of all big cats in South Africa. Learn more here.
Location: 188 Lafayette St., NY, NY.
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About the Artist: Sonny Behan, also known as Sonny Sundancer, is an acclaimed artist renowned for his magnificent large-scale wildlife murals and intricately detailed oil paintings. His art, which seamlessly blends realism with abstraction, can be found in galleries and streets worldwide, from South Africa to New York. His bold use of color and dynamic compositions capture the movement of the animals he brings to life.
The 600 sq ft. masterpiece titled Nature’s Kaleidoscope, depicts an ecosystem of imperiled species and was painted over 14 days by talented local artist Jeremy Nicols. The mural features a gray wolf, a northern spotted owl, coho salmon, western-painted turtles, and as well as an array of pollinators and native plants. Read more here.
Location: NW 13th Ave & NW Lovejoy St, Portland, OR
About the Artist: Jeremy Nicols was born in Japan in 1982. His work tends to focus on the energy, movement, balance, and harmony of the chaos around us. From urban growth and development, to the forward push to preserve the nature around us.
“MAYÁHUEL” depicts Mayahuel, the Aztec goddess of fertility, agave, and sacred beverages emerging from an agave plant. Beside the goddess are Mexican long-nosed bats (Leptonycteris nivalis) which are a regional endangered species crucial towards pollinating agave and other flowering plants.
“MICTLANTECUHTLI” depicts the Aztec god of death and the underworld, Mictlantecuhtli, surrounded by the Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) and the Mexican spotted owl (Strix occidentalis lucida) which according to folklore acted as a messenger to the land of the dead.
Location: Chelenzo Farms, 48B Rainbows End, Cerrillos, NM
About the Artist: The murals, distinguishable by HOKZYN’s unique graffiti-inspired art style, not only pay tribute to the rich Aztec culture, but also spread awareness of indigenous endangered species in Mexico and New Mexico. HOKZYN explains her intention was to “work with the original codex illustrations of each Aztec divinity, as a sign of respect and offering to the gods represented.”
Ha-Nukkud, which means “to protect” in the Tohono O’odham language is a permanent fixture at the Arivaca Dancehall, and is a collaboration between the Arivaca Pollinator Pathway Project, Tohono O’odham artist Paul ‘Nox’ Pablo, and a steering committee of Arivaca community members. The three-sided mural features endangered and threatened species native to Arivaca, including: a monarch butterfly, the Lesser Long-nosed Bat pollinating a Saguaro blossom, a Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, and other bees, butterflies, insects, and bats pollinating native wildlife. Read more here.
Location: Arivaca Dancehall, 17271 W. 5th St, Arivaca, AZ
About the Artist: Paul ‘Nox’ Pablo is from the San Miguel region of the Tohono O’odham Nation and has been creating art in Southern Arizona and other regions of the US for over a decade. Besides his solo work as a painter and an aerosol muralist, he is a member of the indigenous artists collective Neoglyphix, who work together as a group to create murals and to provide youth with art-making experiences.
This Black Rail looms large next to the Park at LeDroit in Washington D.C. A small, secretive marsh bird, no bigger than a sparrow, the Black Rail is challenging to find, even for scientists studying the stealthy creature. Black Rails nest only a few inches above the ground, which means they are particularly susceptible to sea-level rise. Their nests can likewise be washed out by high tides and severe storms. The Eastern subspecies, which lives primarily along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2020. Because climate change and the ongoing conversion of their habitat continue to pose an existential threat, a network of partners is working to identify strategies to to restore the Eastern Black Rail throughout the Atlantic Flyway.
Location: 307 Elm Street NW, Washington, D.C.
About the Artist: After studying art in college in Belarus, Yulia Avgustinovich realized she wasn’t the sort of artist who wanted to be sitting in a studio painting only for herself. So she brought her work into the street for everyone to enjoy. Avgustinovich began her career painting murals in Moscow; now based in Maryland, the muralist takes special inspiration from nature.
This interactive mural highlights native mangrove forests and its abundant wildlife. The endangered smalltooth sawfish, the mangrove cuckoo, and a variety of fish species depend on this keystone habitat. Viewers can learn about each species in the mural through the interactive knowledge base on Canvas of the Wild. From there they can connect with ways to help protect local endangered species. Read more here.
Location: 2553 1st Ave North, St. Petersburg, FL
About the Artist: Growing up as an artist at the edge of the Everglades headwaters, Kelly Quinn is passionate about protecting Florida’s natural ecosystems. She has been developing creative avenues that support environmental education. As the Art Director for Canvas of the Wild, Kelly creates large-scale murals and educational displays, as well as graphics, animations, and book illustrations that communicate science to our community.
“Migration is Natural” by Ray Acosta highlights 3 endangered species: the Mexican Gray Wolf, the Mexican Long Nosed Bat, and the Lesser Long Nosed Bat. The name of the mural reflects what these species do. The two bat species cross over to the U.S. from Mexico and back every year. The range of the Mexican Gray Wolf also includes several U.S. states. “This mural represents a chance of life for the endangered animals,” said artist, Ray Acosta. “What will the future look like without them? We need to preserve the animals and their habitat for the future generations to come, and my hope is that this mural can represent these animals in a beautiful way.”
Location: 442 E. Lohman Avenue, Las Cruces,N.M.
About the Artist: Ramon “Ray” Acosta is a New Mexico based artist who is widely known for his captivating murals both locally and nationally. Ray is self-taught and began painting large murals in the mid- 80’s while working with a local billboard company. He is an artist with a sense of humor. His signature touch is to add himself in each mural along with incorporating other small surprises throughout the art work.
Lion Mario was painted by renowned wildlife artist, Sophy Tuttle, and features the real-life eponymous lion who lives at our LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary. Sophy’s painting advocates for continued protection for big cats and highlights FOUR PAWS’ work to rescue and protect lions and other big cats around the globe. Read more here.
Location: Mario’s portrait is proudly displayed at FOUR PAWS’ US office in Boston, Massachusetts.
About the Artist: Sophy Tuttle is an English-born, Boston-based artist specializing in nature inspired murals and artwork. Her work celebrates nature, reconsiders our position in the web of life, and creates new narratives that explore regenerative, resilient culture-building among all forms of life.
Sunny Glen Garden and the Connecting Community Corridor for People Pollinators and the Planet (CCC for PPP) are partners in bringing an art mural to the Linden neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio. Resident Linden artist, Kenia LaMarr, has created a design for the Rusty-Patched Bumblebee – the first native bee on the endangered species list as we look for ways to prevent the Rusty-Patched Bumblebee from becoming extinct by providing native pollen and nectar food sources and habitat free from pesticides and chemicals, leaving leaves, stems, and dead seed heads up for the winter on individual properties, balconies, porches, and on schools, churches and businesses.
Location: Oakland Park and Maize Commerce Plaza, 929 Oakland Park Ave, Columbus, OH
About the Artist: Being surrounded by family members who are artists in their own right, Kenia LaMarr found her love for creating art at a young age. Her portraits are vibrant and colorful, rarely using the traditional ideas of skin color; to explore the beliefs of identity and normative views to convey the concept of self while contradicting conventional notions of race. “The creation process of my art is healing for me. I hope it is for the viewers; even if that feeling is momentary. As a black portraitist, I desire to create dialogue around the layers of humanity and strive to gain a more profound perception of humankind.”
This pair of Western Snowy Plovers are an outsize presence on The Nature Conservancy’s building in downtown Sacramento. The first Audubon Mural Project installation in California’s capital, the mural was commissioned by Audubon California and Wide Open Walls, joining a national network of murals that Endangered Species Coalition partners created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. The landmark environmental law provides crucial protection to animals like the Western Snowy Plover, whose population along the Pacific Coast has begun to tentatively rebound since first being listed as threatened in 1993.
Location: 830 S Street, Sacramento, CA 95811
About the Artist: Dedicated to painting wildlife exclusively, with every piece, Jonathan Martinez celebrates the natural world as he also calls on us, to protect it. Known as “Art of Endangered,” Martinez’ artistic journey began 10 years ago and since that time, he has stayed true to what has become his signature style: vibrant colors that seem to move, envelop and uplift the beauty of the wildlife he paints. Martinez paints in a variety of mediums. From small acrylic paintings and mixed- media drawings, to large-scale spray- painted murals.
You can learn more about the #ESA50 coalition and all the murals here.