At 11:30 a.m. on June 24, a new “species” of shark will enter the water in Mote Aquarium’s Shark Zone: Arty the Shark, a recycled polyester and neoprene art piece made by participants in Borderless Arts Tennessee.

Borderless Arts Tennessee, a statewide organization committed to inclusive and accessible arts programs for people with disabilities, has completed international art exchanges on all seven continents and even sent a piece to space on an astronaut’s suit. This is the first time that one of their art pieces will be underwater, and Mote is honored to host.

Arty the Shark was dropped off by Executive Director Lori Kissinger, for cleaning on June 18, and had to spend several days being prepared to enter the Shark Zone exhibit in Mote Aquarium’s Courtyard. Mote Aquarium Dive Safety Officer Heather Hooper is in charge of making sure the piece is safe to enter the water with Mote’s resident animals.

Arty—who is decorated with a rainbow of cheery colors on one side and with darker red and black on the other side—represents the two paths laid out for our ocean’s future: one with conservational efforts and one without. The piece measures 40 inches long by 17 inches wide and is made from recycled polyester and neoprene, which should allow it to get wet and then dry back into its original shark shape. Kissinger stated that choosing the fabric was challenging because the artists could only use materials that would be safe for the resident sharks nearby. The patterns chosen were meant to reflect the ocean’s diverse marine life.

The piece was created by eight participants of the Teapot Diplomats, Borderless Arts Tennessee’s visual arts program. Arty the Shark was designed by Hope McKee, a longtime participant in the program, and created under the direction of Lauren Emery Rudd, an educator for Apparel Design and Fashion Merchandising at Middle Tennessee State University.

“Mote is excited to have the unique opportunity to work on this project,” said Brad Tanner, the Manager of School Programs at Mote. “It allows us to combine marine education with art and, most importantly, brings awareness to ocean conservation.”

*Left to right: Austin King, Hope McKee, Torie Summers, Erica McMurray. Mote divers left to right: Mark Fishman and Rona VanAmburg.

Mote volunteer diver, Rona VanAmburg, showing off Arty the Shark's vibrant side, which highlights the ocean's future if conservational efforts are made.