With fewer than 420 North Atlantic right whales remaining, we’re taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to saving this iconic species. That includes engaging young activists through creative projects like the Healthy Whale, Healthy Ocean Challenge, presented by CLF and Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs. The art contest invited K–12 students from the New England and Gulf of Maine regions in the U.S. and Canada to use their creative voices to highlight the critically endangered North Atlantic right whales and the need for conservation of marine ecosystems and resources.
We were amazed by the submissions from across the region. They celebrated the right whale while also showing the threats they face, including ship strikes and entanglements in fishing gear. We are thrilled to share the winning submissions, which effectively combined knowledge of the issue, creative expression, and persuasive activism.
Here are the first place winners in each category along with the student’s artist statement. Statements have been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
K–3 Art: Hope From Darkness
“In the inner circle, the mom whale and her baby are living happily on our beautiful earth, which is floating in space. Even though more and more pollution is surrounding us, we still believe that after our endless effort, one day hope will emerge from the darkness like a rainbow.”
Middle School Art: Save the Whales
“I wanted to let others know that we should save the North Atlantic right whales. I love animals, and I don’t like the fact that other people are harming the animals, and some don’t even know! But the ones who do know are doing very little to help. If more people know, then more people will help. Even if I can’t do something, that doesn’t mean someone else can’t.”
High School Art: Public Awareness
“Each one of us has an impact on the health of our ocean and the organisms living within it. There have been local newspaper articles discussing the death of North Atlantic right whales off the shores of Cape Cod in the more recent years. I have grown up on the Cape my whole life so knowing that this is happening right next to me is concerning. . . It is too late to turn back time, but I know that I can do something to help these whales. With this piece and newly gained knowledge on right whales, I am going to spread the word about their current state and need to help them.”
Middle School Film: The Calvineers
Charlotte Griffith, Hazel Sheahan, Caitlin Tobey, Max Ergas, Jack Cukierski, Quinn Jackson
“Now that I know more about the right whales, I’m excited to introduce the Right Whale World Year 2020 and to present the Calvin Project to scientists from all around the world. I also know now that I want to be a marine biologist when I’m older; I think I will help whales then like I am now.”
High School Film: Let’s Learn about North Atlantic Right Whales!
“As an artist, I have always tried to use my talent and ability to spread the word for animal rights and human rights. This time, I chose to create an animation that mainly focuses on the issue of entanglement and background of North Atlantic right whales. Throughout the project, I have definitely learned a lot about how industrialization had harmed so many marine lives. When creating the clip, I was able to reconsider how humans can have both a positive and negative impact on the health of the ocean.”
High School Poetry: six hundred
“I grew up spending my summers in Boston Harbor, and there would always be advertisements for whale sighting cruises tacked to wooden beams, fluttering in the ocean breeze. I will never forget the exhilaration of seeing the whale in the distance – a spray of mist, a black-blue tail – and then it was gone again. However, I didn’t realize what “gone” truly meant until I did the research to write my poem, and that inspired the title. Living here, I shared not only a home with these whales, but a heartbreaking history. I hope that others will be able to understand this innocent desire to protect these magnificent animals.”
teach me to take something ugly:
blood bone fat—
and make it beautiful.
I will take your children
and turn them into blood-streaked light.
—except now they will never be able
to sing my own children to sleep
with deep, swirling echoes and
a primal beauty that will inspire belief again
in the creatures of lore.
They said to call it
the right whale as in
right to hunt, because it did not know
to fight for its home
once men deemed the coast ours
with their sweat-slicked harpoons.
never mind its right to live.
I want my daughter to grow up
not with baleen corsets but with
that light in her eyes
as we stood on the beach, silent,
the glistening tail sinking back into the ocean.
Salt in her hair, sand scratching my throat,
as she asked me if the whale would come back.
What would it come back to?
It is not enough to stop hunting—
and leave nets of rope and oil and waste
floating like poison.
Six hundred left—
She has found more seashells in a day
than there are right whales in the world.
But she does not want the seashells.
Join us on Sunday, May 5, at the Right Whale Festival at the New England Aquarium to celebrate the students, educators, scientists, advocates, and artists working in our backyard to protect the North Atlantic right whale. Winners and participants will be recognized at an awards ceremony during the festival.