Vanessa is the Founding Artist and Director of Coral Projects, an underwater art installation program that aims to provide physical support to revitalize under-water ecosystem by introducing homes to oysters, corals and other filter species.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m Vanessa Albury. I’m an eco-visual artist, Akashic Records reader and energy coach. I grew up in Nashville, TN and landed in Brooklyn, NY in 2006. I moved here the day before my interview for the MFA in Studio Art program at New York University. I got in! I also have two BA’s with honors from the College of Charleston in Studio Art and French with a minor in Art History. My artwork is image-based taking form as photographs, sculptures and interdisciplinary collaborations, expanding the traditional view of photographs as “windows into the world” to objects in space and time. I am the 2022 Deutsche Bank NYFA/ NYSCA Photo Fellow. Ken Johnson for the NY Times describes my work as “haunting,” which I take as a complement. In 2014 my art practice took a life-changing turn. On the Arctic Circle Residency and I began to “green” my studio practice and with the pandemic my whole life. I speak to audiences around the world on the physical, emotional and spiritual healing power of art and being eco-friendly. I’m the Founding Artist of Coral Projects. I also host a podcast The Power We Hold available on all platforms with the delightful and talented Caleb Williams.
What is the Coral Project?
Coral Projects, my most favorite thing ever! As Coral Projects, I’m creating the first-ever underwater, eco-friendly art exhibition to rewild filter species like corals and oysters around the world. The art pieces act as supports for new specimen and are made from 100% ocean-friendly and eco-friendly materials. FYI concrete is NOT eco-friendly! I collaborate with marine scientists and our first permanent site is in Southern Italy. We site in July and I’m raising funds now to create a feature-length documentary walking the view through the process, with key interviews by famous eco-artists, spiritual leaders talking about the healing power of this work and water and marine experts. We will end it with animation to take you through the vision of Coral Projects as the reef develops around the artworks!
Tell us about your and the project’s mission and values.
My mission is for an eel to make a home in a 100% ocean-friendly artwork! In short!
I’m all about integrity and authenticity here. I believe in the exponential power of diversity, on the seafloor and among humans! So that means, the best eco-friendly materials I can use, collaborating with other underrepresented artists, engaging local communities so that they know the project is theirs too, working with marine scientists and protected regions and so on. I am also discussing with a materials researcher how to use carbon-sink materials that are eco-friendly and ocean-friendly. I am also very interested in the ideas and power of art. I do not need to see more mermaids underwater. We as a species have done a lot with mermaids. What else can we do? Art is a dialog. I don’t want to tell you the same sentence over and over. Powerful art is new each time you see it because you are new each and what ideas come from that encounter are my stepping off point. If the artist is working with engaging ideas and beautiful imagery, art can transform the world by inspiring more new ideas and actions! I want you to see the work and think wow, that’s beautiful and what is it? Why is it? Who am I here seeing this?
What inspired you to start the Coral Project?
Where to begin, yes? This is my purpose in life, Coral Projects. I’m here for healing for people and the planet through art and the oceans. We can go back to when I first dove on the Florida Reef and felt at home in a way I didn’t know what possible at age 5. Or that residency in the Arctic when I almost gave up on my 3 year project because my photo chemicals for my sailboat darkroom would kill microorganisms. I did give up, but the Captain found a solution right afterwards, so I stayed with it. Or the day I saw 10,000 inch-long baby fishes of the large angelfish, parrotfish, yellowtails that I grew up visiting in the Keys at the Oracabessa Bay Fish Sanctuary. Then I heard the story of the place and I was filled with awe and admiration for the way in which they left no humans behind in saving the reef. After that dive, I sat on the beach with my friend Harry and we were talking about a hut-sized camera obscura I made from all organic materials in a fjord in Norway the previous year. He said “wouldn’t it be cool to see art here.” Like lightning I did see it! I downloaded the whole thing! That was May 2016. I’ve been learning and growing to become the steward Coral Projects needs since then. So in short the ocean. It’s all for my deep, beyond-words, oneness love of the ocean.
Tell us more about this fundraiser.
We start filming in late April with interviews locally. Then in July we fly a team of 4 to Italy to film the underwater siting of this work, interviews and an event with locals at a museum. We need a minimum of $15,000 to get over there and get this properly underway. If you know filmmaking you know that’s not much. Our goal is $160,000 to complete filming. So first step $15,000 to capture the magic of siting the first ever eco-art underwater! A bargain :)
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced for this project?
I’m going to be really honest with you. It is my relationship with money. As a visual artist, we are socialized to believe that we are extra, like the opposite of an essential worker; that what we do is the food coloring in the icing, not even the icing on the cake. There’s no minimum wage for a visual artist. You can work professionally your whole life and never earn a penny. What other occupation has this hurtle? I know this project is powerful. I know it is here to heal and inspire the whole world. So, I work everyday on healing my relationship with money and self-love so that I can again, be the best steward of this project that I can be. I heal inner child wounds, social programming, worthiness; it’s a lot of healing work. Coral Projects came to me for a reason. It is worthy and I work everyday to know I am worthy of it. I’m here to serve!
What has been your proudest moment in this project?
There have been so many moments. I love knowing I have a piece made of plant debris flowing in the Everglades and feeding fishes and hosting plants, but so far, the proudest moment… it was swimming in the temporary siting I made in Santa Caterina di Nardo, Italy knowing that I raised the funds from grants and trust that it would all work out. And it did! The President of the region of Apulia, Michele Emiliano even thanked me for this work! I’m looking forward to topping that this Summer!
What can we expect to see from the project this year? And how can our audience help?
I have 3 milestones in mind: 1) Eco-underwater art permanently sited off the coast of Southern Italy and a healthy mussels colony thriving on it, setting records for growth and health! 2) Filming the documentary begins! 3) Refreshing my biodegradable mural on the LES Porthole Waves (Svalbard) from Stream to Sea which is up through September 2023.
It’s all about awareness and the biggest help, funding! We are fiscally sponsored by a nonprofit organization so all donations are tax-deductible. Also follow us on IG @coral.projects and share the project with anyone and everyone you know!
Words of advice that have been most valuable to you.
Follow your authenticity. Don’t listen to everyone telling you the odds of what you know you are meant for working out. Trust that you are here for a reason and follow with your full heart and integrity. Feel all your feelings and don’t let fear stop you. See the fear as a guide in the night, a light post showing you the way to your biggest growth and achievements.
Write-ins! Something you want to share, questions you answered elsewhere that provided valuable insight to your endeavor.
I mean this was really thorough!
From both my work as an eco-artist and as an Akashic Records reader, I have learned that every little thing you do matters. Going green is a healing journey with the planet. YOUR healing journey with the planet. Each small step gets you a healing. For a gateway to going green action, buy a food-waste wallet from Allegorie and get bamboo toilet paper. Every time your spend money or whip you’ll feel so good about yourself and that reinforces your motivation to take action again. It’s easy and fun!
Allegorie Special Collection for Coral Projects: Explore Here
Hand crafted with love using scrap fabrics made of plant-based materials and recycled PET. For every card sold, $1 will be donated to Coral Projects. Availably at in person events.