Everything you need for a fun night in comes packed in a box. At least it does if it comes from Islamorada marine life artist Jessica Ann Hessing. 

Hessing is a Keys native, and her love of the ocean and its creatures inspires her work. She uses her artistic talent to help people connect with conservation. 

Before quarantine, Hessing hosted “Painting the Keys” art classes in person, with groups joining together over a glass of wine or two and painting marine life in her colorful style. Hessing painted in front, gave tips and answered questions. 

“Snowbirds and visitors who saw us at restaurants and bars loved the idea. They asked if we could ship, and we got the idea for ‘Paint Night in a Box,’” Hessing said. “That was before COVID, and it ended up being perfect timing because now, even with quarantine, we are able to keep people engaged with art and conservation.”

The boxes include everything needed to create your own masterpiece. Hessing goes live on Facebook with step-by-step tutorials that can be paused and rewatched later. 

As a bonus, each month, Hessing partners with a local marine conservation organization and donates 10% of proceeds from paint night boxes to benefit its mission. Pamphlets are included in the boxes, and a representative “goes live” with Hessing to explain the importance of the organization’s work, and to paint with her. Hessing offers an adult painting and a kid-level painting for each nonprofit.

“Most of the paint night boxes are simplified versions of what I’ve done, tied to the nonprofit,” Hessing said. “So, for Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF), we have an eagle ray over some corals. For Save-a-Turtle, we’ll paint sea turtles. For the Everglades, maybe a spoonbill or alligator.”

CRF’s paint night was the first of the new partnerships and resulted in 38 paint night boxes being shipped out, including one to Hawaii.

“CRF is always incredibly grateful to have the support of local businesses and Jessica Ann is no different,” Bridget Hickey, CRF donor engagement manager, said. “The reefs support each and every one of us in the Keys, and we are heartened to see members of the local community so invested in the future of our coral reefs.”

CRF volunteer coordinator J.D. Reinbott added, “This was such a fun way to help our reefs. I’m a total fan. I want to sign up for all of them!”

This connection to art and to sea life is precisely why Hessing does what she does. In an interview with CRF, she said, “I believe that if I can get people to fall in love with the sea life I paint, and if I continue to learn and share with my collectors about how they can help, then I am doing my part.”

The next partnership will benefit Save-a-Turtle in Marathon. More information is at paintingthekeys.com/.

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