Bret Harte Elementary Students Help Unveil Mural of Urban Watershed

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On September 26, 2016, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Councilmember Al Austin office and the Arts Council for Long Beach unveiled a new mural in North Long Beach painted by local artist Art Martinez with help from Bret Harte Elementary School students.

The mural titled Healthy Urban Watersheds Support Life is located at 5399 Market Street on the side of Dr. Shamanna Mohan’s Family Dentistry office at Orange Avenue and Market Street. It features a once prevalent but now endangered steelhead trout with images of Long Beach watersheds and industry painted inside. 

The mural design was originally developed and modified for the Long Beach area by muralist Esteban Camacho Steffensen through a partnership between NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Northwest College of Arts in Portland, Oregon. NOAA has facilitated placement of adapted versions of the mural in Corvallis, Oregon, and Ballard Locks, Washington, to date. For the Long Beach mural, funds for Martinez’s time were paid for by the Eighth District, and an Arts Council microgrant covered the paint supplies.

To place the mural in Long Beach, NOAA Fisheries approached the Arts Council for Long Beach to help to find a location for the mural. “We wanted to locate a wall that was highly visible and in an area passed by schoolchildren,” said April Economides, marketing and communications director for the Arts Council for Long Beach. “Environmentally themed art can be a powerful educational tool and inspire change.”

Councilmember Al Austin’s office enthusiastically took on the project and quickly found a wall along Market Street at Orange Avenue, within blocks from the Los Angeles River. The council office also facilitated participation of Bret Harte Elementary students to help place the final touches on the mural. “We are very excited to have the participation of students from Bret Harte Elementary,” said Councilmember Austin. “They will have a tangible connection to this mural for years to come. As part of the process, NOAA will also send a biologist to Harte to teach the students about watershed health and steelhead recovery.”

Gabrielle Dorr, communications specialist for NOAA Fisheries added, “Our hope is that the mural inspires people to take actions that promote a healthy watershed to help steelhead recover from near extinction.”

The new mural highlights the importance of healthy rivers and oceans to support all types of wildlife including birds and other fish species. Steelhead trout were once plentiful along the Southern California coast before development, dams and water quality degradation contributed to their decline. The southern population of this species has been reduced by 99 percent over the last century and as a result they are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

NOAA Fisheries has an extensive recovery plan for southern steelhead that includes removing dams, improving water quality and increasing their protection. People’s actions are a key ingredient to the success of this species’ recovery, which is why NOAA is promoting the placement of adapted versions of the mural along the west coast.

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