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The HeART of Turtles

It’s pretty safe to say that everyone loves sea turtles. Here on St. Croix there are many conservation efforts being made to track the different species nesting areas and habitats to gain insight into these fascinating creatures. Sea turtles and their ocean home inspire many people, but they can be especially inspirational to local artists. Enter the St. Croix Walls Project and their soon to be ‘hatched’ public art installation known as The HeART of Turtles. 

Glenda Smith, founder and director of the St. Croix Walls Project, is a lover of public art. She appreciates the power art has to beautify public spaces, showcase the talent of local artists, and potentially promote St. Croix as an art destination.  After coming up with the concept for The HeART of Turtles, Glenda  developed a team of experienced advisors to help guide the project. The process for developing an outdoor art installation requires a lot of work – property owner permissions, recruitment of sponsors and artists, site preparation, woodworking and painting by the artists, and site maintenance.  This project was quite an undertaking, requiring buy in and engagement with the local art communities, businesses and governmental agencies.  The hope is that this installation will draw visitors to the island to see the turtles, creating a positive economic impact for tourism businesses like accommodations, transportation, shops, restaurants and tour operators. 

Glenda Smith, founder and director of the St. Croix Walls Project

The HeART of Turtles installation will include eleven turtles in all, each created by local artists. This is a unique outdoor art installation that differs from others around the United States because the turtles were created from salvaged materials. Local woodworker Chris Lima created ten of the turtles from wire spools salvaged from the hurricane Maria recovery effort, railings discarded from the Randall ‘Doc’ James racetrack, and reclaimed rum barrels.  Each turtle sculpture is 3-4 feet across and stands 5-6 feet high, and each is sponsored by a local business or individual(s). The turtles were then painted and/or embellished by local artists chosen by the sponsors based on renderings they submitted showing their artistic vision. The beautiful final artworks are the result of the efforts by these local artists employing a variety of media including paint, glass, wire, tin and other materials. The eleventh turtle will be a special one sponsored by St. Croix Walls Project. This turtle will be carved from a piece of a historic tamarind tree (donated by Randy and Kathy Tiddark) which was uprooted by Hurricane Maria.

Turtle sculpture created by Chris Lima, and painted by Isabelle Picard

The HeART of Turtles installation kicked off with a ‘Hatching Event’ at Sandcastle on the Beach on November 9, 2019.  Now, The HeART of Turtles sculptures will be placed on display at various locations around the island for public enjoyment until the Spring of 2021. A few of the confirmed display sites include the Frederiksted Pier, the Christiansted Seaplane Terminal, and Cane Bay. The turtles will then be auctioned off at one or more major community charity events, and the proceeds will support local youths participating in Project Promise and Junior Scientists In the Sea. 

To learn more about The HeART of Turtles installation, the sponsors, artists, and installation locations, please visit To find out how you can become involved with, or donate to, the St. Croix Walls Project to help them continue to beautify St. Croix in unique and special ways, please click on their link below.

-Jennie Ogden, Editor

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