Go to Mystic Aquarium for the sea lions. Leave with a painting you made together.

The wonderful thing about art is that anyone can create it — even sea lions.

No, really: five talented sea lions are ready and available to create a painting with folks at the Mystic Aquarium.

Kendall Rabeneck, communications manager at Mystic Aquarium, explained that the aquarium began the program virtually during the pandemic last summer, and now people can register to have painting encounters with the sea lions.

“We wanted to offer a program for guests to still engage and interact with California sea lions and staff,” she said. “We came up with the program to provide an inside look at enrichment behaviors and provide guests with a painting to take home to reminisce on the experience. The art includes a biography of the sea lion who participated in their program.”

The aquarium has five female sea lions: Cali, Sakari, Pyp, Maia and Clara. They’re all trained to hold paintbrushes in their mouths. Rabeneck said they’re currently training Dash, a young male sea lion to join in.

For the sessions, attendees ages 8 and up will spend half an hour creating an original painting with one of the flippered painters. The humans select which colors of non-toxic paints to use; the rest is up to one of the talented sea lions.

While the sea lion paints, attendees learn about sea lion training at the Aquarium. At the end of the session, folks go home with an original sea lion creation.

As it turns out, painting is one of several enrichment activities sea lions participate in at the aquarium, which also offers two other programs — Sea Lion Spotlight and Sea Lion Up Close — that bring visitors closer to sea lions.

“These activities allow the sea lions to engage, learn, and interact with their environment benefiting them physically and mentally,” Rabeneck said.

So far, the aquarium has only held a handful of in-person sea lion painting encounters, but Rabeneck said visitors have enjoyed them.

“We have only done three programs so far, and they have gone extremely well! One participant cried out of excitement, so the program is already (forming) many incredible connections between guests and the animals,” Rabeneck said.

If painting with a sea lion isn’t quite your thing, don’t worry: the sea lions are not the only critters getting in on the Picasso fun at the aquarium.

According to Rabeneck, Mystic Aquarium also offers folks the opportunity to paint with seals and virtual programs to paint with penguins and whales.

Of all their painting critters, the penguins are the only ones who aren’t trained to paint with their mouths. Instead, the birds step in paint and walk over the canvas to create their works of art.

For more information about the Painting with Sea Lion encounters at the Mystic Aquarium, visit mysticaquarium.org.

tinamarie.craven@hearstmediact.com