For more than a decade, Big Blue & You has used science and art to inspire, educate, and empower youth to become ocean advocates. Founded in 2008 by Marine biologist Danni Washington and her mother, Michelle Swaby-Smith, a Miami-based businesswoman, the organization has connected 30,000 young leaders with STEAM resources developed by artists, scientists, and environmentalists. Since founding the organization, Danni became the first African American woman to host an American science show. She is currently the host of “The Genius Generation” podcast and a featured correspondent on the nationally syndicated CBS series, “Mission Unstoppable,” which was co-Executive Produced by Miranda Cosgrove and Geena Davis. The ocean conservation space is crowded with nonprofits, but Big Blue & You is unique because it connects art and science with ocean conservation to inspire youth and is the only ocean conservation organization to be founded by African American women. Danni and Michelle work to address the pressing need to support emerging environmental leaders, especially young women of color.
More than 3,000 children and their family members have attended annual Big Blue & You Art by the Sea Festival events, which are supported by as many as 100 volunteers and 40 community partner organizations and businesses each year. Since 2011, the event has been held at Miami’s Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, which was established in 1945 by African Americans in response to segregation and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2018, Big Blue & You began producing pop-up Art by the Sea events, initially at the USA Science & Engineering Festival and then in partnership with the PangeaSeed Foundation as part of the Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans event series. The organization’s 2019 event took place in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, where Big Blue & You connected 45 youth with international and local artists who created a series of culturally sensitive public artworks to raise environmental awareness in the community, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017. After the COVID-19 pandemic forced Big Blue & You to cancel 2020 in-person programming, the team has pivoted to develop S.E.A. Squad, a virtual Art by the Sea program. Physical Art by the Sea events are scheduled to return in 2022!