Amusing Monday: Ocean trash is still attached to art and education

Trashy art is getting better and better. Some years ago, people started transforming debris found on the beach into sculptures worthy of an art show. Now the trashy art has gotten so good that we can actually attend an art exhibit where trashy sculptures are on display.

Called “Washed Ashore Exhibits,” one group of sculptures has been placed in an ongoing display at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

A traveling exhibit will open at Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium beginning next week and continue until Oct. 21. I don’t believe the pictures on this page or in the photo gallery of sculptures on the Washed Ashore website truly capture the effect of seeing these large sculptures up close.

Of course, the whole idea is to raise awareness about marine debris, most of which begins with a careless discard of trash — although some of the interesting items were probably lost by accident. Regardless of the source, these plastics and other materials don’t belong in the ocean, where they can harm sea life in various ways, from ingestion to entrapment. Such debris also turns our beaches into a trash dump.

The exhibit at Point Defiance Zoo will include various activities, including a scavenger hunt to see if people can find specific items that are part of a sculpture. For details, check out the zoo’s website titled “Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.”

The Washed Ashore program was conceived by a former Washington state art teacher, Angela Hazeltine Pozzi, who grew up spending summers on the Oregon Coast. After her husband died in 2004, Angela returned to the Oregon shore, where she noticed children picking up shells while bits of plastic remained strewn across the beach. She decided that turning trash into art might get more people to pick up beach debris while spreading an educational message. Reporter Harrison Smith tells her story in the Washington Post.

Quoted in, Angela says, “I’ve always thought that this should be a global project. We’ve created in six years 66 sculptures out of about 18 tons of garbage that just came ashore in a 300-mile stretch. And it’s only just a few people picking it up. What if we got people around the world picking up garbage?”

Washed Ashore, in partnership with NOAA’s Marine Debris Program, recently developed an integrated curriculum to educate school students about marine debris while creating interesting works of art. See NOAA’s website.

This picture by Marguerite A., a fourth grader from California, was one of the winning entries in the Marine Debris Art Contest. // Image: NOAA

Meanwhile, NOAA’s Marine Debris Program recently announced the winners of the annual student art contest. The winning pictures will adorn the pages of a 2018 Marine Debris Calendar, an ongoing effort to remind people about the marine debris problem.

This year, more than 500 entries were received from kindergarten to eighth-grade students across the country. See all the winning entries on NOAA’s Marine Debris website, or take a look at the previous winners.

Malisa L., an eighth grader from Hawaii, entered this winning picture in the contest. // Image: NOAA

Perhaps my favorite picture is still the one entered in 2013 by Minty Little, who was a seventh grader at Fairview Junior High School in Central Kitsap at the time. See Water Ways, March 18, 2013. I guess the NOAA folks must like the picture too, because it remains the banner artwork for the website promoting the art contest. Entries for the annual art contest are submitted in the fall.

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