Riverside's hottest annual art show, Sea No Evil, returns to the newly refurbished Municipal Auditorium this Saturday, June 30, bringing together internationally renowned artists such as Gary Baseman, Shepard Fairey, Jeff Soto and Tara McPherson to benefit the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
The event, now in its sixth year, started as a late night epiphany. Riverside couple Derric and Erin Swinfard had gone whale watching off Long Beach in 2007, but had no luck spotting the giant creatures. That night, Derric Googled "whale watching" to get tips for future outings and happened upon a video of Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd, a group dedicated to direct action against the whaling industry. The video changed his life. He woke up his wife at 1:30 in the morning, and said "You have to see this."
Erin stumbled out of bed and, bleary eyed, watched Paul Watson and his crew sabotage a Japanese whaling mission in Antarctica from their small ship, The Sea Shepherd. "We're pirates of compassion hunting down and destroying pirates of profit," Watson says in the video. The Japanese operation left the area 85 whales short of its quota.
"I'm going on that ship," Derric told Erin.
Erin put a kibosh on that particular dream; they had just had a baby, and there was no way she was going to let him run off and be a pirate, even a pirate of compassion. Having a baby had changed the way Derric looked at the world; he suddenly realized that he needed to do everything he could to protect the earth for his son. He installed solar panels both at home and at their digital imaging business, Monster Media, and looked for ways to make their life and work more green. "When Derric makes a change, his entire world is changed," says Erin. "Nothing is untouched."
In the video, Paul Watson says "We have to stand up and say 'Look, we're going to take matters into our own hands as individuals, as caring, compassionate people.'" Derric realized he didn't need to leave home to save whales; he could take matters into his own hands by drawing together his artist friends and staging an art show to benefit Sea Shepherd. The first event took place in the Monster Media warehouse. Each year since, the show has grown.
The Swinfards brought in their friend, Bill Fold, producer of the Coachella Music Festival, to help produce and bring music to the event. Sea No Evil was held at the Riverside Art Museum in 2008 with artist Shepard Fairey DJing, and an acoustic set by Matt Costa. When the show outgrew the museum, city council member Rusty Bailey, who wanted to event to stay in Riverside, helped them find a new home at the Municipal Auditorium. Since then, musical guests have included The Crystal Method and She Wants Revenge. This year, DJ Juice will bring the jams. Paul Watson, the inspiration for the event (and now the star of Animal Planet's hit tv series, "Whale Wars") has been the featured speaker every year, and will return on Saturday.
This year, Sea No Evil will spill out into the street for the first time. Part of Lemon St. will be closed, allowing people to tour the Sea Shepherd RV, base of many of the organization's operations, and grab grub from the Yalla and Mangler's Meltdown food trucks.
Inside the venue, much of the exhibited art is sea-themed, including Ania Tomicka's eerie and glamorous sea-woman "Monster," and some pieces directly address the evening's cause, including Roland Tomayo's acrylic and ink on wood "Got My Back," which features the Sea Shepherds' ship "Steve Irwin" grafted onto the back of a sperm whale. "The title speaks of how the Sea Shepherds have the back of the creatures of our sea," Tomayo says. All pieces will be available through silent auction, proceeds going directly to Sea Shepherd. Sea No Evil has raised around $300,000 for Sea Shepherd to date.
"It shows you don't need deep pockets to make a change," says Caryn Hoffert, one of Erin's closest friends, who has taken on the show's merchandising, as well as other responsibilities. "Opening an event like this to the community has a much more far reaching impact than a more exclusive benefit." The bulk of the event's behind-the-scenes work is done by a group of five women friends in Riverside. They'll often meet at the park and work as their kids play. "We run the art show in the midst of total mom chaos," says Regina Shanta, who deals with the event's legal paperwork. "Kids come with us to drop off flyers, pick up permits." The women find it empowering to work together and hope others will be inspired by their example.
"This all started as Derric's idea and went from there," says Carol Heller, who organizes volunteers for the event. "We want people to see that anyone can do this."
Erin, who is considered the "glue" of the show, agrees. "I hope people come and are touched," she says. "I want them to see that they're part of something bigger than themselves; I hope it will spark something in them to make their own positive change in the world." Even if their epiphany comes at 1:30 in the morning.
Sea No Evil, Saturday, June 30th. Doors open at 6pm. Riverside Municipal Auditorium, 3485 Mission Inn Ave, Riverside, CA 92501. $10 ($100 for VIP ticket with 5:30 admission and other perks.)