Oregon Artists Transform Ocean Debris Into Knowledge

by Jennifer Prediger

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The next time you balk at doing the dishes, consider this: one take-out container from a night of Thai food in New York City can make its way to the Pacific Ocean to drift among plastic detritus rivaling the size of Texas.
Within the past 100 years, plastics have made their way into our lives and also into our ecosystems. A study in 2006 estimated that every square mile of ocean contains about 46,000 pieces of floating plastic. In one surveyed area in the Pacific, small pieces of plastic outweigh plankton 6 to 1.
Daunting statistics like this can be hard to make sense of. That's why an arts and environmental education project in coastal Oregon, Washed Ashore, is taking plastic trash and other ocean debris and turning it into knowledge. Creating art supplies out of found items and assembling those pieces into giant sculptures are all part of the “community project that aims to educate and create awareness about marine debris and plastic pollution through art.”

Artist and educator Angela Haseltine Pozzi started the project in 2009 and orchestrates the construction of towering, aesthetically striking sculptures of marine life, with the help of many volunteers, both young and old. The project's creations have included a walk-through oceanic gyre replica, a styrofoam coral reef, Henry the fish, a plastic bottle jellyfish, a giant sea bird, and a musical sea star.

The exhibit is currently on display at the Chula Vista Nature Center in Chula Vista, CA through July.

A feature-length documentary about the project is also in the making. You can get a glimpse of it here.

Photos of the Washed Ashore project: