The mural is well underway as artist Sarah Gallahan paints from a lift. Photo: Kendall Osborne

Lofty New Sea Turtle Mural to Greet Va. Aquarium Visitors

In an effort to beautify the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center’s huge front wall, the
Virginia Beach Cultural Affairs Department has launched a mural project in collaboration with the Virginia

The goal was to find an artist who could design and paint a mural for that front wall. They
wanted something beautiful, of course, but also something welcoming and inspiring. They got that and
much more with the stunning mural currently being painted by Virginia native Sarah Gallahan.

Gallahan, from Winchester, Va., is a self-taught and superbly talented muralist and portrait artist. Her works include everything from sunflowers to a Gaelic-tattooed hog. She paints indoors and out. She paints barns to buses.

Artist Sarah Gallahan with her eye-catching work van. Photo: Kendall Osborne

Gallahan was one of 20 artists who submitted proposals to a committee formed of citizen representatives, public art committee members, Cultural Affairs staff, and Aquarium staff. Gallahan won with a representation of sea turtles swimming underwater. That image fit well with the Aquarium’s role in protecting endangered sea life through their Stranding Response Team. (As Bay Bulletin recently reported, the Aquarium just opened a first-of-its-kind new Stranding Response Center).

Gallahan has been painting all her life. “I used to stay up all night painting pictures of something I had seen,” she said. Gallahan got her introduction to painting murals by painting an indoor wall. “I painted an interior wall for one of my mom’s friends,” she said.

People liked the wall, and soon Gallahan was painting more indoor walls. This was all by word-of-mouth. Her work was so well received that she started painting full time. That was 16 years ago. Gallahan paints most of her murals with a spray gun, but also uses rollers, brushes, and cans of household spray paint. They are the same brands available to any homeowner. With these, she creates images that are realistic but playful, and sometimes exaggerated in just the right way. All of her works are wonderfully colorful!

Bay Bulletin asked Gallahan if she ever has concerns about working up high. “Absolutely no,” she said. “I don’t mind the height at all. And this lift is much safer than some of the old ladders and scaffolding I have been on,” she chuckled.

But even the lifts are not always ideal. Gallahan has already lost one day due to a broken-down lift. The project is expected to be completed on September 23, 2022. If you are in Virginia Beach this is a

The Virginia Aquarium’s mission is to inspire conservation of the marine environment through
education, research, and sustainable practices. It is located just south of Rudee Inlet in Virginia Beach. Visit The best way to follow Callaghan is through on instagram or Sarah Gallahan Art on Facebook.

-Kendall Osborne