Inspirational Story of the Week:

Monumental Animal Sculptures Made From 35 Tons of Plastic Collected on Oregon Coast by Volunteers


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Life-sized (and often much bigger) sculptures of colorful marine life are traveling in exhibitions across America to raise awareness of plastic pollution in the ocean.The message is uniquely and powerfully communicated, as the sculptures are made entirely from ocean-born plastic, picked up by volunteers, and formed by artists into the charming installations.

The Washed Ashore Project is trying to communicate the message of ocean conservation through art—saving beauty by creating beauty. The Project first began in 2010, and since then they have cleaned 300 miles of beaches, and processed 60,000 lbs. of trash all to create 86 charismatic works of art, like Flash the Blue Marlin, Gertrude the Penguin, Chompers the Shark, Stanley the Sturgeon, and the American Sea Star.

“It’s an ugly problem with a beautiful solution,” says Brad Parks, a director at Washed Ashore.

More than 14,000 people have volunteered for Washed Ashore’s sponsored beach cleanups. Many of these volunteers are involved not only in the beach combing, but also cleaning, and sorting the plastic waste based on size and color.

The process of collecting the trash is often how the artists go through the creative process, envisioning how the haul could be turned into something.

That was the case with a long-horned cowfish sculpture, which was seen after a large yellow buoy and hard hat were found. A giant penguin was made almost entirely from black flip flops, which are one of the most easily spotted pieces of waste in the sculptures, and are used for penguin and eagle feathers, salmon stripes, and the leathery skin of sea turtle flippers.

The Artula Institute for Arts & Environmental Education first enabled and supported Washed Ashore, with an artist-in-residency program on the Pacific Ocean in Brandon, Oregon. Since then the institute has repeatedly supported efforts of Washed Ashore to take their sculptures on the road.

At the moment the traveling exhibitions can be seen on the National Mall, at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History—Sant Ocean Hall, and in 2022 will be arriving at the Tennessee Aquarium, Metropolis at Metro town (for another 12 days), the John Ball Zoo, the Lincoln City Cultural Center, and the Wichita Botanic Gardens.

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