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Washed Ashore Project

Ocean Trash Becomes Art At Living Coast Discovery Center

Above: A harbor seal made up of so many lids she's been dubbed Lydia.

Aired 5/11/12 on KPBS News.

KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando explores the new Washed Ashore Exhibit.

Transcript

The Chula Vista Nature Center re-launched last month as the Living Coast Discovery Center (located at 1000 Gunpowder Point Drive in Chula Vista). Its first exhibit under its new moniker is Washed Ashore: Plastics, Sea Life and Art. The exhibit runs through September 3.

Take a tour of the exhibit with its creator. Listen to the radio feature or watch the video.

According to Discovery News, there's about 315 billion pounds of plastic in the oceans right now. That's a huge number. To try and put that in perspective, try to imagine what 3 tons of garbage looks like? It could look like this...

Plastic debris collected from beaches.

Washed Ashore Project

Above: Plastic debris collected from beaches.

Or if you're artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi you can turn 3 tons of debris into this...

A jelly fish created out of discarded plastic water bottles by artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi. It is an interactive sculpture.

Living Coast Discovery Center

Above: A jelly fish created out of discarded plastic water bottles by artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi. It is an interactive sculpture.

... Giant marine sculptures like a jellyfish made up of hundreds of discarded plastic water bottles strung together.

"These were just water bottles that all washed ashore there's a huge amount that come ashore. There are water bottles that we've been getting from the Beijing Olympics," says artist Haseltine Pozzi.

She has been gathering garbage from the beaches in her coastal Oregon home for years as part of the Washed Ashore Project. Washed Ashore is a community project Haseltine Pozzi started in her Bandon, Oregon. The non-profit organization strives to educate and create awareness about plastic pollution through art. The sculptures on display at the Living Coast Discovery Center use about 3 tons of plastic debris picked up from Oregon beaches.

"We don't cut up everything into beautiful tiny little pieces where you can't see where it came from, this is the real stuff. You can actually tell that that's a bottle."

Or that the head of a turtle is a garbage bin lid.

"[The lid] came ashore and I thought that's gotta be a turtle. Sometimes I get inspired by the material, it just speaks to me. Most of the stuff that we get off the beach is coming from the middle of the ocean or from overseas. We process it by hosing it down and sorting it and scrubbing it and soaking it and cutting it, drilling it," says Haseltine pozzi.

Then she turns the trash into beautiful sculptures.

Evening Edition

Above: KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando takes a tour of the Washed Ashore Exhibit at the Living Coast Discovery Center with artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi.

The large jellyfish sculpture is meant to be interacted with and when its tentacles are moved around the bottles sound a little like the ocean waves.It's lovely and fun but it also has a message.

"The sea jellies in the ocean are looking just like plastic bags to turtles," says the artist," and turtles eat jellyfish."

That message gets through to kids like 9-year-old Meghan Palitz, who embraces "Tula the Turtle" like a beloved pet. Maybe that's because her mother works with the Center and Meghan seems very at home among the giant sculptures.

"It's supposed to teach kids how much like full of trash the ocean is and how we should take care of it. And I think it really works," says Palitz, "Some leatherback sea turtles eat jellyfish and if a plastic bag is floating in the ocean it also looks a lot like jellyfish and they'll eat it and it could kill them."

The accessibility of the art attracted Dr. Brian Joseph, the executive director of the Living Coast Discovery Center.

"I was overwhelmed and touched; it was something that was understandable by children, it's something that they can touch, everyday objects, colorful things out of their own lives that end up in the environment, and I thought it had a really powerful message for children," says Dr. Joseph.

The Center's purpose is to connect people to nature and the environment with the hope of encouraging positive change. Washed Ashore directly addresses that message by drawing attention to ocean pollution in a novel way.

"When you first look at these you think these are very beautiful sculptures, and then when you approach them closer and closer you are filled with horror because they are everyday items that we discard in the environment, and we don't think twice about it, and it never breaks down, it'll be here 500 years from now," explains Dr. Joseph.

Haseltine Pozzi adds, "People don't realize how bad it is by just listening to statistics and people talking and seeing charts and I thought I need to do something that makes people really not ignore the problem. so make giant animal and they won't ignore it."

Henry the Fish is one of a group of sculptures made from plastic debris picked up at beaches.

Living Coast Discovery Center

Above: Henry the Fish is one of a group of sculptures made from plastic debris picked up at beaches.

In addition to Henry the Fish that greets visitors as they enter the Living Coast Discovery Center, there are also Styrofoam coral reefs, a Flip Flop Fish, and a fish made of plastic pieces with tooth marks from sea creatures that tried to eat the plastic and most likely died as a result.

"Although this is a small piece, sometimes people feel it's the most powerful because the bite marks by fish and crab in plastic," says Haseltine Pozzi.

Haseltine Pozzi was an educator for 3 decades before she started researching the impact of plastics on ocean habitats.

"The plastic pollution problem in the ocean is huge and a massive problem and it is affecting every bench in the entire world. And it's basically because humans have created this thing called plastic which lasts forever."

She was confident her clever recycling of trash would appeal to kids. But she wanted to reach an even wider audience.

"I don't want to be preaching to the choir, I do want to reach people who do litter on the beach."

Because the Washed Ashore Exhibit can show them how every action has a tangible result.

"I tell people every piece of plastic here in this whole exhibit was once purchased by somebody and then it got tossed aside. And then it traveled and landed on a beach. One person at a time decided to pick up one piece of plastic at a time," says Haseltine Pozzi."

The Living Coast Discovery Center plans to use the exhibit to prompt a larger environmental education effort because as Haseltine Pozzi says, "Every piece of plastic tells a story – and it never goes away."

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