Sanctuary-Inspired Art

Colorful painting of a coral reef, including corals, fish, jellyfish, a sea turtle, sea stars, a lobster, sponges, and algae.
This painting by Beatrice Baldwin served as the template for the right end panel of the Treasures of the Gulf mosaic mural created by Dianne Sonnenberg. (Image: Dianne Sonnenberg)

Despite its remote location, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary has inspired artists working in a variety of media. Their art brings a bit of the sanctuary closer to home, making it accessible to more people and inspiring a sense of place.


Aquarius Art Tunnel

November 2022

Artist: Janavi Mahimtura Folmsbee
Hammerhead sharks swim over a colorful reef of coral and sponges in this section of the Aquarius Art Tunnel
The Aquarius Art Tunnel is 240 feet long and connects two terminals at Houston Intercontinental Airport. (Photo: Michelle Johnston/FGBNMS)

In 2021, artist Janavi Mahimtura Folmsbee began consulting with sanctuary staff regarding the Aquarius Art Tunnel, an art project commissioned by the Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, on behalf of IAH George Bush Intercontinental Airport, through the city’s Civic Art Program and Houston Arts Alliance. The goal of the project was to create an immersive ocean experience in a 240-foot tunnel between airport terminals, using sanctuary images and sounds for inspiration.

In 2022, this massive art installation was completed, and it is truly immersive! The walls depict murals of sanctuary life and habitats intermingled with brilliant swaths of color in Janavi's signature style. The floor is covered in a specially designed carpet modeled after coral polyps. The ceiling lights are covered in semi-transparent pieces called lenticulars that show a mix of art and sanctuary photos that change with your viewing angle. And, as if that weren't enough, visitors hear original music overlaid with sanctuary reef sounds as they travel through.

Since its grand opening on November 30, 2022, the Aquarius Art Tunnel has received national and international recognition--a 2023 National Mural Award for Region 4 (AR, LA, OK, TX, NM, AZ), a UNESCO endorsement, and the 2023 CODAworx People's Choice award.

Flower Garden Banks Public Art Installation

April-July 2022

Artist: Eepi Chaad
An outdoor art project that looks like 3 camping tent frames covered in colorful ribbons and string spaced out across a grassy area between picnic tables.
The colorful textiles used to link together the ribs of each berm were designed to glow in the dark to create a different experience for visitors after sunset, simulating bioluminescence on the reefs at night. (Photo: G.P. Schmahl/FGBNMS)

In April 2022, local artist Eepi Chaad installed her Flower Garden Banks Installation at Seawolf Park in Galveston, TX. This site-specific art project was designed to connect Galveston residents and visitors with their geographic proximity to the sanctuary and celebrate the biodiversity of the sanctuary. Since the project proposal was initiated before the sanctuary expanded in 2021, it focused on just three banks.

The installation took the form of three lightweight berm structures that glowed in the dark to mimic bioluminescence in the reef system and engage viewers throughout the day and evening. The berm shapes represented East Flower Garden Bank, West Flower Garden Bank, and Stetson Bank and were positioned to represent the location of the banks relative to one another. A graphic panel near the Stetson Bank berm provided information about the project, the sanctuary, and a link to the sanctuary’s website.

Calyxes and Polyps: Celebrating Coral from the Flower Garden Banks

March 2022

Artist: Colleen Maynard
A black and white drawing of a coral with a bright red brittle star crawling across it.
Detail of the Mountainous Star Coral drawing, created by artist Colleen Maynard, showing the fine detail used in her imagery. (Image: Colleen Maynard)

Houston artist Colleen Maynard reached out to the sanctuary in the fall of 2018, interested in applying her expertise in botanical, biological, and geological illustration to the corals and invertebrates of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. The next year she received a grant through the Houston Arts Alliance to produce a series of graphite and mixed media (ink and color pencil) drawings documenting coral reef life, with the goal of introducing people to the sanctuary right in their backyard.

For this project, she selected five coral species to draw, then proceeded to capture every little nuance of texture and structural detail in her black and white illustrations. She then added little spots of color, sometimes in the form of equally detailed fish and invertebrates found on sanctuary reefs. Along the way, sanctuary staff provided reference images and advice on species interactions.

An exhibition of Colleen's work was was delayed by the pandemic, but finally took place in March 2022 at the Houston Library Gallery.

Treasures from the Gulf Mosaic Mural

November 2021

Artists: Dianne Sonnenberg, Beatrice Baldwin
A colorful tile and glass mosaic mural of a coral reef, including corals, fish, jellyfish, a sea turtle, sea stars, a lobster, a hermit crab, sponges, and algae.
The mural is so large that it had to be built in three sections. This is the right end of the mural. The marine life is so realistic that people can identify specific species. (Image: Dianne Sonnenberg)

In May of 2021, artist Dianne Sonnenberg contacted the sanctuary regarding a commission she received to create a mural for the new pediatric surgical waiting area at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, TX. The hospital had asked for a coral reef theme and Dianne wanted to base her mural on the Flower Garden Banks reefs. Kelly Drinnen provided information about the reefs and made species recommendations that would fit with the overall mural design, consulting with Dianne and watercolor artist Beatrice Baldwin as they created the painting that would serve as a template for the final mural.

Installed in November 2021, the completed Treasures from the Gulf mosaic mural consists of three 4’ x 6’ panels made from ceramic tile and fused glass pieces. After installation, Dianne was excited to hear someone say that they had been diving in the Gulf of Mexico and recognized that this represented the Flower Garden Banks!

A colorful tile and glass mosaic mural of a coral reef, including corals, fish, jellyfish, a sea turtle, sea stars, a lobster, a hermit crab, sponges, and algae.
Dianne Sonnenberg’s mosaic mural of the Flower Garden Banks was installed in the Pediatric Surgical Waiting Area at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, TX. (Image: Dianne Sonnenberg)

Once the mural was installed, Dianne and Beatrice began the next part of their project—a book for school-age children that describes the process of making the mural and also gives information about the sanctuary’s coral reefs. The book, Treasures From the Gulf: Creating Community and Healing Through Art, was published in late 2022.

Sea Turtle Mural


Artist: Gabriel Prusmack
Texas State Aquarium's Flower Garden Banks exhibit
A sea turtle mural was painted on one wall of the recreation center in Menard Park, along Galveston's seawall, in 2017. (Image: TIRN)

In 2017, Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN) collaborated with the sanctuary and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation to paint a large sea turtle mural on the outdoor band shell at Menard Park, located along Galveston’s Seawall. Local street artist Gabriel Prusmack designed and painted the mural.

The purpose of this art installation is to raise awareness of the sanctuary and the five species of sea turtles that live in the Gulf of Mexico. In conjunction with the mural, TIRN provides educational programming to local schools about sea turtles and the sanctuary.

Project S.I.T.


A concrete bench covered in painted ceramic tiles that feature fish and invertebrates from Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary
This bench about FGBNMS, on the Seawall Interpretive Trail, was created by students at KIPP Coastal Village school. (Photo: Ron Wooten for Artist Boat)

Project S.I.T. (Seawall Interpretive Trail), initiated in 2016 by local non-profit Artist Boat, transformed concrete benches along Galveston’s Seawall into tiled works of art, telling stories of Galveston Island and the Gulf of Mexico.

Four of the 70 benches are connected to the sanctuary: 

  • Silly Springy Sargassum features floating algae from the Gulf of Mexico and was created by students of an advisory council member.

  • Coral Corral: Flower Garden Banks, created by a Galveston artist, features a coral reef scene and comments on the high coral cover at FGBNMS. 

  • Flower Garden Banks features fish and invertebrates of the sanctuary and was created by students at a local school.

  • Greetings from the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, featuring the sanctuary’s iconic manta rays, was sponsored by several sanctuary advisory council members and staff.

Ocean Discovery Day Murals


Artist: Jacqui Stanley
Jacqui's original coral reef mural overlayed with string dividing the mural into squares (above) and the visitor created version of the mural created one square at a time (below).
The first Ocean Discovery Day mural, created by Jacqui Stanley in 2011, depicted the coral reefs of East and West Flower Garden Banks. (Photos: Kelly Drinnen/FGBNMS)

One of the most popular aspects of the annual Ocean Discovery Day events, held at the NOAA Galveston Lab from 2011 to 2017, was the mural painting activity developed by Houston educator, artist, and sanctuary advisory council member Jacqui Stanley. Each year, Jacqui painted a large, original wall mural (top image) that served as a template for children and adults to collaboratively re-create (bottom image).

The 2011 mural was displayed at a local Galveston school and a later mural, of sea turtles, is now displayed at the Turtle Island Restoration Network offices in Galveston. Other murals are still hanging at the sanctuary offices.

A lesson plan for re-creating the original mural is also available on our For Teachers page.

Hidden Highways Poster


Artist: Jacqui Stanley
Jacqui's original coral reef mural overlayed with string dividing the mural into squares (above) and the visitor created version of the mural created one square at a time (below).
This poster combines images of two paintings of mesophotic reef creatures created by artist Jacqui Stanley. (Poster: FGBNMS)

In 2009, Jacqui Stanley created two original paintings of deep reefs in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Her work was inspired by photos of mesophotic reefs and reef creatures that were taken during ROV explorations. Many of the areas explored at that time are now part of the sanctuary.

Images of these paintings were turned into a sanctuary poster in 2010.