Public Art on Display on Amelia Island – A Look Back

Journalist Cindy Jackson

By Cindy Jackson
Photos courtesy of Lauri de Garis
May 5, 2022

Originally published November 6, 2018

Editor’s Note: Cindy Jackson, another of our volunteer reporters, helped us expand our reach in Nassau County when major issues came up before the council. Since October 2018 she has been covering board meetings and occasionally goes out of her way to cover other events in our region. Cindy left it up to me to decide which non-Board County Commission article to publish. I selected the Right Whale article you see below. Thank you, Cindy, for the many hours you spent covering the county. We appreciate your hard work and dedication.

On Friday, November 2, Fernandina Beach Mayor John Miller officially declared November 2018 “Right Whale Month” to help raise awareness of the plight of the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale.

Just one of Lauri deGaris’ public art projects.

Later this month, on November 24, local marine biologist, educator, tour guide and artist Lauri deGaris will host a public art project also dedicated to the endangered right whale. The project will begin at 10 a.m. at Main Beach.

Individuals are requested to start collecting oyster shells from the beach and bring them to Main Beach that morning. Everyone is invited to participate in making the monster-sized mosaic. With the art project expected to be completed in the afternoon, shell contributors, participants, spectators and eubalaena glacialis aficionados are encouraged to return to the project site for an official closing ceremony. Scheduled to begin around sunset, the lineup of activities should be quite inspiring.

This is the third public art project Ms. deGaris has undertaken and it’s going to be huge. life size in fact. Right whales can reach lengths of up to 55 feet and this creation will be at least that big. In addition, it will be accompanied by a mosaic of shells of a calf. Calves are born about 15 feet long, weighing about 2,000 pounds.

Typically, this is the time of year when right whales can be seen off the coast of Florida on their annual migration. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has issued a public service announcement reminding residents of northeast Florida and Georgia that it is in these very warm coastal waters, and only in these coastal waters, that the North Atlantic right whale gives birth. The PSA reminds boaters to slow to 10 knots and stay at least 500 feet away. These precautions help minimize the risk of having calves separated from their mothers.

Sadly, the past year has seen no births, no calves – a phenomenon that says a lot about the plight of these creatures. In fact, studies and surveys estimate that there are less than 500 North Atlantic right whales and some scientists predict that the species will disappear within twenty years.

The main cause of death for these whales is collisions with ships followed by entanglements in fishing nets. Roger Payne, founder of the Ocean Alliance, a nonprofit organization “dedicated to the conservation of whales and their marine environment through research and education,” said this at a recent TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design), “No one ever seems to be interested in saving a species unless they first fall in love with it.

Here on Amelia Island, the locals have fallen in love with the right whale. In addition to November being proclaimed Right Whale Month, next year Fernandina Beach will host a Right Whale Festival weekend on November 2-3. Jacksonville hosted the 10th annual Right Whale Festival earlier this month. According to the organizers’ website, “The festival highlights local efforts to protect these whales from extinction, as well as ocean-themed activities and exhibits that focus on education and adventures and environmentally friendly products. . . and attracts over 8,000 visitors each year.

Until then, residents and visitors are encouraged to start collecting oyster shells and mark November 24 on their calendars. It’s the day that was chosen for what could be the biggest public art project the Island has ever seen. A huge art installation, dedicated to raising awareness of the right whale – a species facing what many consider to be the greatest challenge of modern times for any marine mammal.

According to Lauri deGaris, “whales have done so much for society. We must give back. Although problems may seem out of control, we can send good thoughts, positive vibes. »

For more information, go to!

Editor’s Note: Born in Hagerstown, Maryland, Cindy received her BA in Political Science from Dickinson College. After graduating, Cindy began her career on Capitol Hill as a legislative aide and director. She later became a member of the public relations and lobbying team for the American Iron and Steel Institute and served as director of the state legislative affairs office for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) . Cindy has been involved in economic development for the state of Maryland and served as executive director of Leadership Washington County.

As a community volunteer, Cindy is involved in many volunteer activities as a member of Sunrise Rotary and a board member of Cummer Amelia.

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