Art to save the sea: ‘Washed Ashore’ debuts at Florida Aquarium

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – An art exhibit of sculptures created entirely from junk found on beaches debuted at The Florida Aquarium this week.

The aquarium announced “Washed Ashore” sculptures and artwork would be featured as part of its 25th-anniversary celebrations this year.

8 On Your Side had the opportunity to speak with the founder of the Washed Ashore nonprofit, Angela Haseltine Pozzi, who is also the artistic director and lead artist. She says Washed Ashore began 10 years ago after a tragedy.

“It all started when I went back to the ocean to live after the death of my husband. I was 47 and a widow and kind of lost as to what I was going to do with my life. I had been an art teacher for 30 years and had lived in the city,” Haseltine Pozzi said.

She says she knew the ocean would be the place for her to heal and figure out what to do next. Haseltine Pozzi spent every summer of her childhood on the Oregon coast.

The beach is where the inspiration for Washed Ashore began.

“So I was walking the beaches everyday and kind of stepping over garbage, trying not to look at it, because it’s like, ‘well I’m here to see the beauty of the ocean.’ I think a lot of people are like that. They want to see the beauty of the ocean and don’t want to look at the garbage,” she explained.

As an artist, she says she thought, “well, what if I only use the stuff on the beach?” The idea led her to begin sculptures of animals being hurt by plastics and garbage.

Ten years later, over 14,000 people have volunteered for Washed Ashore projects, creating 80 works of art with 26 tons of garbage.

The nonprofit holds workshops where volunteers can sit down and help with smaller aspects of the sculptures, like tying plastics together with wires.

“And we have things for all levels, so as a teacher of all ages, so we have things that kindergartners can do and teenagers can do and adults and senior citizens, everybody,” Haseltine Pozzi said. “So they make the small parts of the sculptures, then I and my assistants and my art apprentice, we all put those parts together to create the big things like Greta the great white shark.”

Haseltine Pozzi says the nonprofit’s main goal is getting folks to change their habits, to things like reusable water bottles and cloth shopping bags.

She is impressed by The Florida Aquarium and is happy to have one of her four traveling exhibits here in Tampa, especially with the groundbreaking research the aquarium has done on Atlantic coral spawning in a laboratory setting.

“To exhibit in a place that cares deeply about the coral reefs especially and is doing really groundbreaking research is really, really cool,” Haseltine Pozzi said.

She says Florida Aquarium visitors are more observant and involved than she’s seen in most places.

“Now, I’m not sure why that is, but I’m really impressed with the people that come through here, because they don’t just walk by, they actually stand and they look and they look for details and they find things and they discuss it, and that’s how we’re going to impart change,” she said. “And really what we’re hoping for is changing in consumer habits. That’s what our mission is all about.”

The Vinik Family Foundation donated $250,000 to make the exhibit possible.

Florida Aquarium visitors can experience Washed Ashore now through August.

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