Washed Ashore Art Exhibit Comes to Tennessee Aquarium

Walking along the beach, it can be all too easy for the multitude of straws, kitchen utensils, flip flops, discarded sand toys and other plastic waste to fade into the background.

But a six-foot-tall seahorse sculpture MADE of that litter? It’s a little harder to ignore.

Through Sunday, October 30, more than a dozen aquatic animal art installations made from salvaged plastic debris will be on display across the campus of the Tennessee Aquarium and IMAX 3D Theater. The Washed Ashore exhibit is brought to you by the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Nobody Trashes Tennessee waste prevention campaign with additional support from Unum.

Each colorful artwork has been meticulously crafted by artists from Washed Ashore, an Oregon-based nonprofit, using real salvaged trash to raise awareness of the threat waterborne plastic pollution poses to aquatic life. .

With their whimsical depiction of jellyfish, seahorses, otters, sharks and other animals, Washed Ashore’s works are eye-catching and thought-provoking. Capturing the audience’s attention is the first step in the process, but it’s the details revealed on closer inspection – colorful plastic trowels used as fish scales; chains of dangling water bottles serving as jellyfish tentacles — which underscore the need to tackle rampant plastic waste, says Brad Parks, director of conservation education for Washed Ashore.

“I like to say it’s an ugly problem with a beautiful solution,” Parks says. “Seeing them from afar is a truly remarkable experience. Getting closer to seeing these individual objects and recognizing those things that we have in our daily lives is also exceptional.

“These things make these sculptures even more relevant because we use plastic objects in our lives every day, even if you try to avoid them. The purpose of the message is to make everyone aware of the problem and work to reduce our impacting the planet by eliminating single-use plastics from our lives, recycling and reusing other plastic items so we can use them again and again, and disposing of them properly. .

Every year, humanity produces approximately 300 million pounds of plastic, of which less than 10% is recycled. Much of this unused material languishes in landfills or is blown or washed into waterways, where it eventually ends up in the ocean.

According to the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), at any one time, there are more than 100 million pieces of trash on Tennessee’s roads, which can pose a threat to land and water animals.

“The links between roadside litter, water quality and aquatic systems cannot be overemphasized,” says Denise Baker, TDOT’s transportation program supervisor. “Since initiating visible litter studies in Tennessee, TDOT and its many community partners have been successful in reducing the amount of roadside litter, but there is still much work to be done.

“By continuing our work with the Tennessee Aquarium and other organizations, we can inspire more people of all ages to clean up the trash that already exists and prevent more trash from building up in the state of Tennessee. .”

TDOT has launched the Nobody Trashes Tennessee campaign and is partnering with organizations like the Aquarium to actively engage people to join an anti-litter campaign that will greatly benefit our natural treasures. By supporting the Washed Ashore exhibit, visitors to the Aquarium will be captivated by the colorful creatures during their visit, then return home to think of ways to join in the effort to improve the environment.

Unum also supports the organization of this art exhibition in Chattanooga. Like a message in a bottle, plastic debris washing up on land also signals a growing concern for human health.

“Unum is proud to sponsor the Washed Ashore Art Exhibit because protecting the environment and preserving our oceans, rivers and beaches is an important part of building a thriving and healthy community,” said Liz Ahmed, executive vice president of people and communications at Unum. It’s great to have an exhibit like this to highlight the importance of recycling and sustainability efforts.”

The Washed Ashore sculptures that visitors to the Aquarium can see when visiting or exploring the town square and park surrounding the Aquarium include:

  • Seemore the Sea Lion Pup (place)
  • Sylvia the silvertip shark (place)
  • Lemon Peel Jelly (Sea Voyage)
  • Giacometti the river otter (River trip)
  • Flip Flop Fish (river trip)
  • Fish Bitten Fish (IMAX)
  • Stella the Seahorse (Sea Voyage)
  • Jelly Bloom (Sea Voyage)
  • Debris Sea Collage (Sea Voyage)
  • Plastic Tribe (River Journey, IMAX)
  • Pinky Wallfish (Sea Voyage)
  • Noah Wallfish (Sea Voyage)
  • Shoefish Wallfish (Sea Voyage)
  • Annie the Anemone (Sea Voyage)

In addition to works created by Washed Ashore, guests exploring the Discovery Hall gallery on the third floor of the River Journey building will discover a sculpture of a speckled trout from the southern Appalachians. This enormous work was carried out by the employees of the Aquarium from plastic objects recovered internally last summer and autumn.

It’s not uncommon for Washed Ashore to inspire artistic action in addition to stimulating a desire to protect and navigate waterways, Parks says.

“It’s that kind of spark that I love about Washed Ashore when it comes to an organization,” he says. “We’ve seen schools create similar works and all sorts of community projects or sustainability measures have popped up around it. These are all wonderful things that we love to see.

Access to the Washed Ashore artwork installed in the aquarium is included with admission to the aquarium. The works installed outside the Aquarium can be enjoyed free of charge.

For more information on Washed Ashore, visit washashore.org/

Learn more about Tennessee’s waste reduction and education effort and how to join NobodyTrashesTennessee.com

Dora W. Clawson