Stephanie Hung: Muralist & Teen Artivist

Wet Nʻ Wild Mural Unveiling

SCH partnered with local artist and Punahou senior Stephanie Hung to unveil a 50+ foot mural titled, "The Net Gain," that depicts the beauty of Hawaii’s oceans. The SCH team created a display of derelict ghost nets collected from volunteer cleanups across the islands, and added marine debris with signage to create a one-of-a-kind display for the event on October 17th, 2020.

Mural by Stephanie Hung before the unveiling, covered in pieces of ghost net collected off of beaches around Oʻahu. Photo by Monica McLenigan.

An Interview with Stephanie

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m Stephanie Hung, a senior at Punahou this year. I was born and raised in Hong Kong, came to Hawaii when I was 14. (As) a youth activist, hopefully I can inspire other people my age as well, and maybe younger or older and hopefully work towards the same goal and just improve everything.

Stephanie Hung by her mural after the unveiling. Photo by Monica McLenigan, SCH Communications Manager.
What was your inspiration for the mural?

This mural definitely wasn’t the easiest option, because there were so many different components and puzzle pieces to put together, but in the end I kind of figured out that with every single piece, when you put them together it’ll make a large composite piece (on the right). It sends a message that individually we might not be able to make the biggest difference, but when we all come together and towards the same goal we can definitely improve our oceans and help the world.

What advice would you give to other kids that want to take action?

I would say take as many steps as you can. As little as it can be, whether it be picking up trash on the side of the road, be safe obviously  *pandemic*, but you have to do whatever you can to help the ecosystem and the environment. Even if you think it doesn't make that big of a difference, if everyone does their part, it really does make a big difference.

What do you have next in store with your nonprofit? (@artistssavewaves)

So we’re (Artists Saves Waves) collaborating with our potential partners Kiholo Kai to create a line of Aloha wear. We’re also talking to Hickam Federal Credit Union and designing a line of credit and debit cards, which will then be sold, and the proceeds will go to us, and to Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii as well.

Stephanie Hung painting mural. Photo courtesy of Artists Save Waves.
When people take a look at your mural, what do you want them to walk away with? What action do you want them to take?

So obviously, here at Wet’n’Wild everyone’s surrounded by water and beautiful skies, and oceans, so hopefully when they see the mural they’ll see that there is a bigger issue in the world and if we all come together and work on it little by little, we can totally work together at once. The issue of cleaning our beaches, and helping us... even if it’s just bringing a reusable bag to the supermarket... there’s always something we can do individually too.

What advice do you have for other youth who are looking to get more involved as change makers?

Our generation, people our age, we see polluted oceans all the time. Even though it might not be the first thing we see in the morning everyday, we know that in the future it will become a bigger issue, and it will be our responsibility to help the world, and do everything that we can do.

“Getting people out to the beaches to experience a cleanup, and the energy of a community driven to make a difference, is what inspires us the most. Stephanie’s artwork is a testament to the impact something like a beach cleanup can have on our future generations. It is an honor to see the beauty of Hawaii’s oceans and beaches captured in this mural. Continuing to share that story helps to inspire youth and families at the waterpark to connect to it as well,” - Rebecca Mattos, SCH Director of Education & Outreach.

Ghost Net Display Significance.

Ghost nets removed by the Ocean Voyages Institute. Photo by Raftography.

Ghost nets are part of SCH cleanups from across the islands, including Kailua and Waimanalo beaches--which are known as "some of the most beautiful beaches in the world." The nets were also part of the Center for Marine Debris Research program through Hawaii Pacific University, where SCH core volunteer Drew McWhirter is using them to study more about the vessels they originate from, and even the companies that produce these materials. To date, there isn’t a lot of information about these nets

“The idea is to work with the responsible fisheries to detect, track, and remove the gear at-sea, before it strikes and damages the reefs. In this way, we can prevent some damage and allow Hawaiian coral reefs to flourish.” - Jennifer Lynch, Director of Center for Marine Debris Research
Photo of Stephanie by Monica McLenigan.

Ghost nets make up 46% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch pollution. This poses detrimental threats to marine life because ghost nets capture and kill sea life. Nets that wash up in Hawai'i also cause harm to fragile coral reefs surrounding the islands. A few weeks before the mural unveiling, volunteers removed a net estimated at 10,000+ pounds that had washed into Kailua Bay.  Artwork like Stephanie's is one way to use "artivism" to educate more people about the issue, in a meaningful way, and continue to get people inspired to make changes that restore the diversity and populations of marine life so essential to our oceans, and critical to our own survival.