In a nutshell
Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs is an organisation that holds annual youth art contests to promote ocean conservation. What began 10 years ago as a local essay contest with 68 submissions is now a global, multi-disciplinary platform. Over 24,000 youth from around the world connect on Bow Seat to communicate about the future of our oceans. They use the platform to share visual art, spoken word, poetry, creative writing, film, music, dance and multimedia.
Why it matters
“We can no longer ignore the impact of pollution on the environment and our oceans.”
Bow Seat encourages the next generation of ocean conservationists by creating a space that fosters dialogue and awareness.
Above all they want young people to come together to explore and communicate “the need to protect our blue planet.” So they engage and embolden youth “in a way that articles, textbooks and lectures alone cannot.”
Youth art – some background
Back in 2011, Bow Seat Founder and President Linda Cabot and her two daughters embarked on a sailing odyssey along the Gulf of Maine. Importantly, they documented their journey From the Bow Seat – an educational film that explores the impact of local environmental issues.
Linda understood that art has the power to create compelling connection with the subject being explored. As a result, she decided to found the Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Contest hoping to energize youth to become active stewards of the ocean.
Originally launched as a regional essay contest, her idea has snowballed into a global youth art collection.
Today Bow Seat has expanded beyond the youth art contests to provide resources, programming and support youth-led campaigns.
Moreover, with the January 2021 launch of the Future Blue Youth Council, fourteen Ocean Awareness Contest alumni are exploring ways in which youth leaders and activists can create an environmental advocacy space that advances the Bow Seat mission.
The big picture
During the 2020 US presidential election, Bow Seat successfully embarked on Voteless not Voiceless, a youth-led, non-partisan awareness campaign, “Voteless teens (ages 13-17) from the U.S. were invited to submit short videos or written statements about the environmental concerns facing them and their communities, their visions for a better world, and their ideas for how to build it.”
The campaign sought to “shift the hearts and minds of voters” to elect representatives that would speak out for environmental issues.
Going forward, Bow Seat intends to continue to focus its work on youth activism. They are also developing a youth-by-youth environmental grantmaking program that will be announced in 2021.
Likewise, the 2021 Ocean Awareness Contest includes the new We All Rise Prize which celebrates the voices and the art of Black, Indigenous, and Latina/o/x participants.
We All Rise is part of an overall effort to make a greater investment in upcoming creators of colour.
This worldwide, award-winning community of artists and activists is on a learning journey, communicating and organising around their shared passion – art for the conservation of our planet.
Who we talked with
The interview was conducted with Olivia Baud and Jasmine Rodman.
Olivia is the Social Media Manager and Communications Specialist at Bow Seat.
Jasmine is a member of the Future Blue Youth Council.
Want to know more about the Ocean Awareness Contests or Programs? check out Bow Seat’s website
You can also follow them on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter to keep up with what they are doing.
Feature image credit: “Beauty and the Deep” by Kaitlyn Ha, 2020. Middle school art submitted to and awarded by Bow Seat