A people’s choice award – and a cameo on Sunrise – have highlighted the creativity and environmental consciousness of a visual arts collaboration between five Sydney Catholic Schools.

Students made coral-coloured ocean landscape Revived Reefs at a series of workshops for the Sydney Catholic Schools Visual Arts program, Sculpture by the Schools.

The sculpture received the People’s Choice Award in the 2024 Volvo Ocean Lovers’ Festival’s Litterarti Waste Art Competition. A handful of students involved in the collaboration shared the rationale for their work live from the event ahead of Sunrise’s weather report.

Stewardship in action

Students learned about marine ecosystems, biodiversity and the impact of waste on ocean habitats before creating the sculpture with Sydney Catholic Schools’ artist in residence, Joshua Byrne. 

They used 80 per cent recycled materials, including plastics and metal cans, and recyclable paper mache to craft the vibrant artwork.

“The project not only highlighted the artistic talents of the students but also underscored the importance of sustainability,” said Education Officer: Creative and Performing Arts: Helen Landas.

“The sculpture served as a powerful reminder of the impact individuals can have on preserving our planet’s natural beauty.”

“By repurposing waste materials into a meaningful work of art, the schools demonstrated their commitment to reducing, reusing, and recycling.”

Students also wrote a ‘message for the ocean’, noting it was home to an awe-inspiring diversity of creatures.

The letter also pledged to protect the ocean and its delicate ecosystems by advocating for sustainable fishing practices and reducing plastic waste.

Students wrote:

“We must heed the call to be stewards of your vast blue expanse, for in doing so, we safeguard the future of life on Earth…we pledge to change our ways, to cherish you as you deserve, and to revere the incredible life that inhabits your depths.

“In unity, we can revive your majesty and ensure that you remain a cradle of life for generations to come.”

Revived Reefs was  unveiled on 8 March at St Brigid’s Catholic Primary School, Marrickville.

Students who created Revived Reefs were from these schools:

  • St Anthony’s Catholic Primary School Marsfield
  • St Brigid’s Catholic Primary School Marrickville
  •  St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School Oatley
  • St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School Como – Oyster Bay
  • Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School Matraville

Ocean talent

Revived Reefs was on display with other finalists in the 2024 Volvo Ocean Lovers’ Festival’s Litterarti Waste Art Competition at Bondi Pavillion, where it received the People’s Choice Award on March 24.

The Litterarti competition invites students from Kindergarten to Year 12 to make a sculpture, mixed-media, collage or other artwork out of repurposed rubbish.

Last year Sydney Catholic schools collaboration Underwater Ballet Jellyfish, was displayed at the Bondi Pavilion, while Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School Mosman’s tiled collage, Harbour, was runner up in the primary school category of the competition.

Revived Reefs will also be on display at the Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney, throughout April.