FISH FACE: Eye-catching sculptures draw attention to marine plastic pollution. Photo courtesy of Norfolk Botanical Gardens

Washed Ashore: Norfolk Art Makes Bold Statement on Marine Pollution

More than a dozen massive sculptures of marine life are now on display at Norfolk Botanical Gardens. And they’re especially head-turning because each is made entirely of marine plastics and debris.

Washed Ashore is a traveling exhibit of “Art to Save the Seas,” which aims to “educate a global audience about plastic pollution in waterways and the ocean, and to spark positive changes in consumer habits.”

The sculptures are made by volunteers in workshops, and they’re all comprised of trash cleaned up from local beaches. Exhibited at zoos, aquariums, and museums around the country, the educational exhibit teaches people to be better stewards of our landscapes by preventing plastic pollution.

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Take a look at some of the striking pieces of artwork below:

As you can see in the first photo, some of the sculptures had to be installed with heavy machinery. The other sculptures visitors can see in Norfolk include puffins, penguins, whales and fish. And later this summer, Norfolk Botanical Gardens plans to add a locally-made sculpture from Virginia beach trash: a bald eagle carrying a menhaden fish in its talons.

Most of the 15 art pieces are visible along the walking path in the botanical gardens’ Enchanted Forest, with a couple of sculptures inside.

Plastic pollution is a global problem that’s especially evident in places like the Chesapeake and its coastlines. According to the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s predictions, by the year 2050 there could be more plastics by weight in the oceans than fish.

“It is so important to bring awareness of the plastic pollution crisis affecting our planet—in the oceans and on land. Making one small change can make a huge difference. There are more than 7.8 billion people on earth—image what a difference we can make!” says Norfolk Botanical Gardens spokesperson Kelly Welsh.

The exhibit opened last weekend, with support from The Batten Family Educational Achievement Fund of the Hampton Roads Community Foundation, and will remain open until Oct. 31, 2021. It’s included with the cost of admission.

To learn more about the Washed Ashore Project or to find out how to bring the traveling exhibit to your hometown, visit their Facebook page.

Meg Walburn Viviano