This Summer at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, “Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.”

On exhibit for the first time in the Washington, D.C. region, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in partnership with Friends of the National Zoo, presents “Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea” from May 27 through September 5. Made completely of plastic debris collected from beaches, these colorful and dramatic sculptures of marine animals represent more than 315 billion pounds of plastic in oceans today and underscore the need for wildlife conservation. Admission to this exhibit and the Zoo is free.

Visitors of all ages are invited to get up close and view the sculptures which range from a 12-foot-long shark and 16-foot-long parrot fish to an 8-foot-wide octopus and a 20-foot-long coral reef. Seventeen sculptures of marine life will be installed along the Zoo’s Olmsted Walk, in the Visitor’s Center, and in Amazonia. Visitors can see marine animals affected by waste—including sea lions, brown pelicans, and corals—on view at the Zoo’s American Trail and Amazonia Science Gallery.

“So many of the species the Zoo and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute work tirelessly to protect are impacted by the enormous amount of plastic waste in our oceans,” said FONZ Executive Director, Lynn Mento. “While we hope Zoo visitors enjoy this amazing, fun summer exhibit, we also hope they walk away understanding the important role that small, everyday actions, like using less plastic, play in saving species.”

Under the leadership of Angela Haseltine Pozzi, lead artist and executive director, Washed Ashore Project volunteers clean beaches and process the debris into art supplies. To date, thousands of volunteers have processed an estimated 18 tons of garbage collected from more than 300 miles of coastline to create 68 sculptures. Pozzi orchestrates the construction of these towering, striking sculptures of marine life. Each sculpture was created using hundreds of individual pieces, from flip-flops and bottle caps to nylon rope, Styrofoam, and lighters.

“The National Zoo—America’s zoo—has given us a global platform to present our art to educate a world audience about how plastic pollution is posing a dangerous and perhaps catastrophic threat to the world’s oceans and sea life,” said Pozzi.

FONZ is committed to supporting the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute in its mission to save species including its pioneering coral research and conservation. The ocean produces more than 50 percent of the world’s oxygen, and coral reefs nurture more than a quarter of all marine life. Unfortunately, increased greenhouse gasses are warming and acidifying oceans across the planet, causing a widespread coral-reef crisis. Using procedures similar to those used in human sperm banks, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) scientist Mary Hagedorn and her team are global leaders in conserving coral reefs and the ecosystems that they build. By pioneering coral cryo-conservation and collecting and storing coral sperm from threatened reefs to produce new colonies in the lab for captive-bred and wild-colony conservation, SCBI is building a potential lifeline for species under threat from climate change, pollution, and overfishing. Scientists at the Smithsonian are helping ensure a future for coral reefs and the species that count on them for survival as ocean environments change.

“Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea” at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo is generously supported by Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, The Change Happens Foundation, The Coca-Cola Company, Covanta, CustomInk, MGM National Harbor, NBC4, Joseph Regenstein III, Sodexo, Nixon Peabody LLP, Norman F. Sprague Jr. Foundation, SunTrust Foundation, WAMU 88.5, The Washington Post, Washingtonian Magazine and Wild Rivers Coast Alliance.


World Oceans Day Celebration

June 11; 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.; National Zoo
Members-only: 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.

It is not just marine animals who depend upon the ocean for survival; it’s all species. Visitors can celebrate World Oceans Day at the Zoo with educational activities, animal demonstrations, and crafts. Join FONZ from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. for a special members-only celebration at the Elephant Community Center. Lead Artist and Executive Director of Washed Ashore Project, Angela Haseltine Pozzi, will be present to share her team’s extraordinary mission to educate and increase awareness of the impact of marine debris and plastic pollution through art.

Media Contact:
Courtney Smith
smithcou [at] si.edu
*Select photos are available on Flickr; additional images will be available May 24.