The OceanUS Mural


Awareness for Lolita


Peace Mural Foundation's Miami Beach Gallery

1606 Washington Avenue

7-9pm October 25, 2014

Raising Awareness for Lolita

by: Nicole Webster

Local Miami artist, Michael Gray, is raising awareness through art for Lolita, an orca whale captured and held for entertainment purposes at Miami Seaquarium for over four decades.

Orca whales are one of the most intelligent species on Earth. They are also some of the most active and social, travelling in pods an average of 75 miles per day. That is the length of approximately 2,415 Olympic size swimming pools.

Lolita lives virtually alone in a pool smaller than Olympic size, and has not seen another orca since 1980. In fact, she is the oldest living whale in captivity. Her home is not adequately built for her extreme sensitivity to sound. She is forced to perform tricks for the viewing pleasure of people and has been doing so for 44 years.

For thousands of years humans have hunted whales primarily for meat and oil. The popularity of the movie Flipper (1963) created an entirely new market: entertainment. At first, people did not understand the harm and consequences they were causing these animals. Now we do.

“I want nothing but the best for Lolita and other captured whales in the industry, they are simply not meant to be kept in captivity. I hope people get to see the mistakes we have made and realize that its time to let these animals live their lives just as we do,” said Gray.

Fixing these past mistakes is what Gray and thousands of others around the world are fighting and raising awareness for. In partnership with The Peace Mural Foundation’s OceanUS project (, Gray created a mural of Lolita to be unveiled at the end of the month.

Gray was born and raised in Miami, and had a talent for art from an early age. After high school, he won a full scholarship to the International University of Art and Design (formally known as the Art Institute of Miami) and graduated in 2008 with a Bachelor’s Degree of Fine Arts. He is currently studying for his Master’s at Florida International University.

Gray’s first encounter with Lolita was as a child. “I have known about Lolita for my entire life, I have many memories of going to the Miami Seaquarium to watch Lolita as a child. I have photo albums from the early nineties of Lolita jumping out of the water and splashing everyone in the crowd and I have personally lost a camera or two to such splashes.”

With the happy memories places like the Miami Seaquarium produce, it is easy to see how misleading these shows can be to the public. A happy place for people is a prison for the animals. Gray himself was not fully aware of the truth behind Lolita until recently.

“I was aware of anti-whaling groups before but it never occurred to me until recently that there was a movement against trapping whales for our viewing pleasure. I was quite naive to these realities until I started working with Huong and The Peace Mural Foundation,” said Gray.

Educating the public through art is at the heart of this mural and it is what The Peace Mural Foundation is built on.

The collective hope for Lolita is that her owners will allow her to retire and be moved to her home waters of Washington state for rehabilitation. She would live in a transitional coastal sanctuary sea pen under human care and later be given the option to return to the wild.

In June of this year, the Miami Seaquarium was sold by Wometco Enterprises to California-based Palace Entertainment. There have been no announcements on any changes that may be made to the park, let alone Lolita.

“I would [like to] ask the CEO Yann Calliere what his plans are for the future of Lolita and if she is expected to die in captivity. This whale has been working for over 40 years and has generated plenty of wealth for the company. It is time for a change and it is time to take this highly intelligent and understanding animal out of the tiny tank she is confined to and let her live the rest of her life in peace,” said Gray.

During a special public event on October 25, the Lolita mural will be unveiled alongside The Peace Mural Foundation’s OceanUS mural. The OceanUS project aims to promote awareness on major current ocean issues. The event will be held from 7-9pm at the foundation’s Miami Beach gallery at 1606 Washington Avenue.

To learn more about this event, contact Huong at 305.534.0460 or

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