It might have been the smell of waffle cones, or the lack of affordable rental space elsewhere. Maybe it was the earthquake. It’s unclear exactly why the first sea lion hauled it’s considerable weight up onto K-Dock in the marina next to Pier 39 three decades ago—just three months after the 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta temblor rocked the region—but whatever the reason, the idea caught on. Their numbers quickly grew from 30-50 at a time to as many as 500, roughly 220,000 pounds of barking, flippered mammals that had found a new home.
To mark the 30th anniversary this year, Pier 39 and the Aquarium of the Bay commissioned artists to paint 30 sea lion statues that have been placed around the city, including at Pier 39 and at multiple sites along the Embarcadero. Each 6-foot statue is painted with an environmental theme, including biodiversity, plastic pollution or sea lion rescue, and each sculpture, according to organizers, “tells a true story about the lives of these mammals and their changing environment.”
The overall installation is part of the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) initiative in California. Among the artists participating, most of them local, are Naomi Dubin, Aria Luna Lillian Shanahan, Giorgio Landa, Fuzz E. Grant and DNGRCT (Craig Vincent). The statues will be on display through January 2021, and Instagrammers are encouraged to use the hashtag #sealionlovesf. Learn more at aquariumofthebay.org or at sealioncenter.org.
Photo credit: Spud Hilton