“Washed Ashore” exhibit opens May 14 at Botanica in Wichita

Washed Ashore is a traveling exhibit featuring giant sea life sculptures made of marine debris by artist Angela Pozzi. Fourteen sculptures will be placed throughout Botanica from May 14-Oct. 23, including Chompers the tiger shark, made of nearly 800 pounds of bottle caps, soft drink bottles, shot gun shells, disposable lighters, flip flop footwear and more.

Washed Ashore is a traveling exhibit featuring giant sea life sculptures made of marine debris by artist Angela Pozzi. Fourteen sculptures will be placed throughout Botanica from May 14-Oct. 23, including Chompers the tiger shark, made of nearly 800 pounds of bottle caps, soft drink bottles, shot gun shells, disposable lighters, flip flop footwear and more.


For five months starting this month, Wichitans can get up close to a giant Pacific octopus, a tiger shark and 12 other species found in the world’s oceans.

This isn’t a traveling aquarium, though; this is a tour de trash.

Botanica in Wichita is hosting the national traveling exhibition “Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea” from May 14 through Oct. 23. Fourteen sculpture groupings spread throughout the gardens’ 20 acres will depict oversized sea creatures that are made entirely of marine debris. The colorful artworks of majestic wildlife scenes graphically illustrate the ugly reality of plastic pollution in oceans and waterways.

Eleven-foot-long Chompers the tiger shark is nearly 800 pounds of bottle caps, soft drink bottles, shotgun shells, disposable lighters, flip flop footwear, toy shovels, boogie boards and other plastic garbage collected after washing ashore on Pacific Ocean beaches in the western United States. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources lists the tiger shark as near threatened; among the dangers to the species is that they will eat anything they encounter and have been found with manmade debris in their stomachs, from license plates to tires and plastic items.

“By creating sculptures like Nora the Salmon and bringing this exhibition to landlocked states like Kansas, we are hoping to reach out to help everyone in the interior of the country recognize that we’re all connected to the ocean,” said Brad Parks, conservation education director for Washed Ashore. “Things that we dispose of in Wichita or that get in the storm drains in Wichita can wash right into the Arkansas River and that leads right to the Gulf of Mexico.”

Washed Ashore is a non-profit organization based in Oregon that is committed to combating plastic pollution through art and education. Artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi originated the idea when she was gathering material for a found object project. While walking the beach near her home, she was finding a problematic amount of plastic waste.

Since forming in 2010, Washed Ashore has collected 35 tons of trash. Volunteers have pulled that from nearly 35 miles of Oregon shoreline, and there also are drop off stations where the public can bring plastic waste. About 70% of what is collected can be cleaned and processed for use in the nonprofit’s visually powerful sculptures.

Their goal is to educate audiences about plastic pollution in the ocean and waterways and to spark positive changes in consumer habits.

A lead artist designs each sculpture, which is then created through a collaboration of the artist, Washed Ashore team members and volunteers. It takes three to eight months to create each sculpture depending on the complexity. Sometimes, it can take years to collect enough plastic in a certain color to complete a sculpture; purple and pink are the most elusive colors, Parks said.

The group has created 86 sculptures and has at least three in process. Each shows a giant version of sea life set in a realistic scene that helps tell the story of the species.

Octavia the octopus, who will be placed near the entrance to Botanica’s children’s garden, is constructed of discarded plastic, and her eight arms are exploring a pile of trash she’s perched atop, from a cooler to a microwave and a freezer.

“Octavia’s sculpture depicts her investigating all these different things and that helps show us that an octopus is quite intelligent; their curiosity and exploring nature is truly part of what makes an octopus fairly unique,” ​​Parks said. empathy with these sea creatures that are impacted by the plastic in our oceans. ”

Washed Ashore turtle
Edward the Leatherback Turtle is one of the sculptures in the Washed Ashore traveling exhibit that features giant sea life sculptures made of marine debris. Courtesy

One of the most striking of the sculptures coming to Botanica is an 18-foot-tall standing blue jellyfish. It will be in the gardens’ grand lawn along with 13-foot-long Edward the Leatherback Turtle, one of the more heartbreaking sculptures. Ed is shown feeding on a jellyfish but if you look close you’ll see he also has a plastic bag in his mouth. Parks said this is the artist’s way to bring attention to the fact that sea turtles routinely mistake plastic bags floating in the ocean for food.

These two sculptures will bookend a temporary Botanica Beach available through mid-August. A 50-foot-wide swath of the gardens’ grand lawn will be transformed with tons of sand and thousands of donated seashells. Visitors can dig for the shells and take home what they find.

“We want visitors to get their toes in the sand and really take in the Washed Ashore experience,” said Kathy Sweeney Spillman, Botanica’s director of special events. “We’ll have umbrellas and seating at the beach. A lot of people don’ t realize you can bring in your own lunch at Botanica, and this would be a great spot to picnic by the beach. ”

Spillman said that unlike most of the exhibitions Botanica brings in, Washed Ashore encourages guests to get close and touch their sculptures. Families can check out free exploration bags at the front desk to use during their visit. The Bug Bungalow created during last year’s “Big Bugs ”exhibition is returning with some of the same critters joined by aquatic species.

Botanica’s staff is working on programming to accompany the exhibition as well. Watch the website and social media for a daily activity schedule and special events for kids focused on recycling, reusing materials, conservation and composting, as well as art classes, fitness classes and lectures for an older crowd.

The gardens are also collaborating with local artist Sarah Daniels to create a large-scale community mural. Residents can donate bottle caps to the effort then come back later in the season to pick a bottle cap to place in the mural. Botanica is looking for donations See a wish list at botanica.org/washed-ashore.

Once the exihbit opens, visitors can stop at the children’s garden party barn — which will be temporarily renamed Conservation Craft Barn — from 10 am to 2 pm Mondays through Saturdays to participate in that day’s project. Also in the children’s garden, Granny’s Cottage will become play area designed to educate kids on recycling a variety of materials.

“Washed Ashore” is included with regular admission to Botanica.

“We hope everyone who sees’Washed Ashore’ will think about wildlife and the negative impact our plastic can have on them,” Parks said. “We hope these sculptures will inspire everyone to consider at least one thing they can do differently to reduce the amount of plastic that’s being used. ”

“Washed Ashore” exhibition

Where: Where: Botanica Wichita, 701 Amidon St.

When: When: The exhibition runs May 14 through Oct. 23. Botanica is open 9 am to 5 pm Mondays through Saturdays and 1 to 5 pm Sundays for the duration of the exhibition. They extend hours to 8 pm on Tuesday and Thursdays from April through September.

How much: Regular admission to the gardens includes this exhibition: $ 10 for adults, $ 8 for seniors, youth and military, free for ages 2 and younger

More information: botanica.org


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