Art and the great diversity of life in the Gulf of Mexico will come together in once place through a recently funded project to look at fish impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in 2010.

Funded with $100,000 from the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative, LSU Museum of Natural Science Curator of Fishes Prosanta Chakrabarty and Brandon Ballengée, a artist who is doing postdoctoral work in Chakrabarty’s laboratory, the ultimate goal is to involve the public an create a mobile art and science museum.

“It’s art, science and getting people involved in what is going on in their backyard,” Ballengée said.

The work starts will using large nets and walking through the waters along Louisiana’s coast and see what species are found.

“The Gulf is a nursery and it’s just such an incredible place,” Ballengée said.

As the project moves forward, people will be asked to come down to areas like Grand Isle to help in the collections or just learn a little more about what the Gulf of Mexico holds beyond red fish.

“The whole thing is really outreach,” Ballengée said.

The collected fish will be classified and added to the museum collection or used for the artwork that will be features in an interactive mobile museum the group will be developing. With artists already working on things like a 20-foot inflatable shrimp, the museum will be education but will be developed much more along the lines of an art installation, Ballengée said.

“The mobile museum will include digital hand-held field guides of Gulf of Mexico fishes, animations, sculptural displays, a series of visual artwork of rare and at-risk species and a library of recent studies and interactive maps pertaining to the oil spill,” according to a press release from LSU.

The mobile museum will give people a new way to get information about the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster and the productivity of the Gulf of Mexico.

“There’s a lot of things besides redfish out here,” he said. “The real point is to get people to care about things that they don’t really see in the Gulf.”

In addition to gathering people from community or school groups to participate, Chakrabarty said dragging a large net along a public beach generally attracts a crowd all on its own.

Combining the science and art is a way to bring more people into that world through setting up at festivals, events or parades.

“I know very few people are reading our scientific articles that aren’t scientists,” Chakrabarty said. The traveling art/museum and fish collection offers different way for people to get more involved in the Gulf of Mexico health.

“It’s really an experiment,” Ballengée said.

Anyone interested in participating is welcome to email Ballengée through his website at

Follow Amy Wold on Twitter, @awold10