South Padre Island is beautiful this time of year – and the temperatures just keep getting nicer as we get closer to December. I had the chance to take a short trip to the island recently and I did not want to leave. The temperatures were in the 80s and there was a pretty good breeze the day I went. I, unfortunately, had to get back to the office, and home, to tend to other things and could not stay as long as I wanted to.
This short trip was to see a perfect outdoor activity for this type of weather – the Sea Turtle Trail. The Winter Texan Times had received a news release from SPI’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau about a recent installment to the trail and decided it was something we needed to go out and see for ourselves. This is a trail that you can walk or cycle if you have the time. The locations are spread out on the island – furthest point south is Beach Park at Isla Blanca, and northern point is SPI Convention Center. They are nearly five miles apart from each other. I was able to visit all but two turtles while there and was quite impressed with the beauty of them.
So, what are these turtles I speak of?
The Turtle Trail is an installment of art on South Padre Island. According to their website, the South Padre Island Sea Turtle Art Trail Task Force is a group formed to curate, design and build up to 10 permanent sea turtle art sculptures across the City of South Padre Island. The task began this year and has now hatched eight turtles. They have Turtle Tuesdays featured on their Facebook and Instagram pages where you can learn about the new hatchlings, the artists, and see pictures of the artwork. Bios of each artist are also available on their website.
The turtles are designed with fiberglass, wood, and other materials that will withstand the elements of SPI. They are then transformed into a ‘vibrant work of art’ by local artists. You can find these turtles in prominent locations throughout the Island, including SPI Visitors Center, SPI Chamber of Commerce, and Sea Turtle, Inc. Each painted differently to reflect the artist and the colors and lives of those at the Island.
The most recent hatchling is displayed in front of the Island’s Art Business Incubator. The turtle is the first one to capture the life cycle from nest to ocean. Artist and Kingfisher Gallery owner Sandy Margret brought together the beach, waves, and water in deepening shades of blue. The style mirrors her approach to artistic home furnishings as well.
Margaret has a master’s degree in Art from NYU and left teaching over ten years ago to realize her dream of starting a gallery. Her approach to her art tends to reflect an appreciation of color and light, and her goal was to visually create a depiction of the entire life cycle of the sea turtle. The base is nesting sand with dozens of turtle eggs, and the hatchlings are shown flowing over the beach on the back of the adult female as they make their way toward the ocean ribbons of waves on the turtle shell.
Hope is the heart of the design, according to Margaret. “Built into the overall design is the hope that when people look at the statue of the turtle, they begin to realize that it's not just the animal we need to protect,” said Margaret. “It is the beaches where they nest, it is the inshore jetties and rocks where they grow and gain strength, and it is the deep open oceans where they live and breed.” South Padre Island is renowned for being one of the world’s foremost spots for the rescue and rehabilitation of sea turtles including the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle.
The Art Business Incubator is dedicated to giving both new art businesses and existing art businesses support to establish and sustain themselves in the South Padre Island economy. The mission of the ABI is to enhance destination development that attracts visitors both on and off-season. Every year, five artists are accepted into the ABI SPI program. During this time, these emerging art-related entrepreneurs are granted access to their own studio space and gallery space, along with training in business, resources like administrative and sales support, and more. Most importantly staff provides a comfortable and supportive learning environment for the in-resident artists so they may develop and refine their business skills.
The City of South Padre Island and the South Padre Convention and Visitors Bureau, which are sponsors of the Sea Turtle Art Trail, hope to continue expanding the Trail. “We are already seeing our turtles embraced by visitors and the community alike,” noted Ed Caum, South Padre Island’s CVB Director. “We plan on continuing our artistic celebration of these magnificent creatures for years to come.”
All turtles on the Trail are arranged for ease of both social distancing and selfies.
For more information about the Sea Turtle Art Trail and more activities on South Padre Island, please visit www.sopadre.com/seaturtletrail/.