PANAMA CITY BEACH — When artist Joyful Enriquez first moved to the Panama City area three years ago, she joined the Panama City Dive Club, which met at the Panama City Diving off Thomas Drive.
“As a marine wildlife artist, it was important to me to stay connected with local underwater scenes and wildlife through diving,” she said. “The Dive Shop did a lot to support local divers and gave us great deals on dive trips and equipment. They partnered with our dive club to support local conservation initiatives, such as beach trash clean-ups, diving trash clean-ups, and local injured wildlife rehab and release programs, such as the Gulf World Marine Institute.”
When Hurricane Michael hit on Oct. 10, 2018, the Dive Shop building was destroyed — a total loss. The shop’s dive boats were damaged at the marina, and it looked like they might have to close permanently.
“Although they were closed for awhile, they were able to overcome many hurdles and obstacles, and were finally able to secure a new building and reopen this past year,” Enriquez said. “I love the shop, the dive club and the owners, and have been wanting
to do something to help and give back.”
Dive shop owner Patrick Green said three artists had approached him about using the new shop’s wall as mural, but they chose Enriquez because she was a known quantity as a diver and artist. The shop is located at 106 Thomas Drive, Panama City Beach.
“Like most Bay County residents, we’ve had a trying couple of years,” Green said, referencing both Hurricane Michael and COVID-19.
COVID has made operating profitably tricky — reducing the capacity on charters to ensure passengers have more space, as well as a scare when three employees developed symptoms and consequently tested positive. They have all recovered, quarantined and returned to work.
“I feel like our whole community has gone through so much that it’s just fantastic that Joyful and other artists are able to help beautify our workspaces and community at large,” Green said. “All of the divers that have seen her progress in person or on the internet have been amazed and excited to have essentially a piece of fine art become a part of the fabric of the dive community.”
Originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Enriquez said her biggest inspirations are “the mysterious, beautiful, and tranquil qualities of the underwater world.” Now in her 30s, she has been drawing since she was a child and recalled thinking how much she wanted to paint as “a proper job.”
Diving is her refuge as well as her inspiration.
“When I feel weary and tired, I know it’s because I’ve spent too much time in the studio and not enough time in the water,” she said. “I grab my wetsuit, mask, fins and snorkel, and my GoPro and I hit the jetties or the springs, or somewhere I can get in the water and observe underwater wildlife in their natural habitat. I can’t always go diving, but when I can, I do. Panama City is a great place to go diving. They have a great assortment of natural and manmade wrecks just off shore and Panama City Diving has been a great place to help me with all my diving needs.”
In part of her statement as an artist submitted for a show at the Center for the Arts recently, Enriquez emphasized her personal connection to the underwater world.
“As an avid scuba diver and conservationist, I spend as much time as possible connecting with my subject matter through diving, snorkeling, visiting aquariums and collaborating with marine biologists, naturalists and other conservationists in the field,” she wrote. “This hands-on approach allows me to expressively depict the animals, while maintaining accuracy of anatomy, behavior and environment.
“By giving people a glimpse into the magical and beautiful underwater world, my hope is to inspire and motivate others to not only appreciate the ocean’s beauty, but also support its exploration and preservation for generations to come.”