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Arts and Entertainment Guide

A Look At 1,000 Mermaids Arts And Environmental Project

Ideas come from strange places. Someone makes a joke and then the mind runs with it. That’s what happened to artists Ernest Vasquez and Sierra Rasberry, the creators of 1,000 Mermaids.

Last spring, Vasquez and Rasberry were commissioned on an art project for a friend of a friend. He wanted them to create something for his boat, so they made a body-cast of his wife and turned it into a mermaid by adding a tail and scales with hexagonal glitter. But before they were done, the client lost the boat, got divorced and no longer wanted the piece.

The Fort Lauderdale couple asked what they should do with the mermaid, to which he told them he didn’t care —”Throw it in the ocean.” His remark sparked an idea. What if they did just that?

Rasberry knew from her time working at a saltwater fish company that a coral polyp propagates when it’s placed on ceramic. The couple started researching the steps for building an underwater sculpture garden, which would be an artificial reef used by marine life and divers.

“People have done underwater sculptures. People have underwater modules,” Vasquez says. “But to combine the two is still relatively new.”

Now months into the project, their goal is to create a neighborhood of modules with mermaids on them to bring fish back to the area and build a sustainable marine economy east of the W Fort Lauderdale and a quarter-mile off Fort Lauderdale Beach. And while Vasquez and Rasberry are dedicated to the cause, the project is so ambitious that it’s going to take some help from the community. In order to do outreach, the duo has presented live body-castings at local events, including the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show and Art of Swim hosted at the W Hotel. Next up during Art Fort Lauderdale from Jan. 25 to 28, Vasquez and Rasberry will show off their craft through live body-castings.

The couple hopes that the community will begin to see replenishing artificial reefs the same way it understands the importance of planting trees. Around September, they partnered with the Andrew “Red” Harris Foundation, which is building artificial reefs in Palm Beach County. The non-profit will provide them with modules that will host their mermaids. By the end of summer, Vasquez and Rasberry’s goal is to drop into the ocean 20 modules, which are batch-made over a span of a couple months.

“Right now, [we are] completely self-funded and self-done,” Vasquez says. “We’re either going to make a reef or go poor doing it.”

By appealing to art enthusiasts, locals and divers alike, they hope to spread awareness to new audiences—audiences they hope will support the cause well beyond 1,000 mermaid modules.

“Even though we say 1,000, it was more of a number for people to understand the scale of it. Because 100 was just like you finish it and then you’re done,” Vasquez says. “No, we want to do this the rest of our lives.”

Mermaids art