Teaching visitors who love the Coast how to love the Coast better. That’s the goal of an exploratory effort between Bandon-based Washed Ashore and the Oregon Coast Visitors Association (OCVA). Launched this spring, the initiative is looking to expand Washed Ashore’s mission for educating visitors about the impact of marine debris into a Coast-wide initiative.

This spring the two organizations held meetings in several coastal communities to gauge interest for new public art installations and a residency program for Coast artists.

“A lot of what we do is destination management, which includes educating visitors so they know how to act while on the Coast,” says Arica Sears, Destination Management Coordinator. “This is a regional project and we are educating visitors along the entire Oregon coast.”

Founded by artist and educator Angela Haseltine Pozzi in 2010, Washed Ashore teaches people about the consequence of ocean garbage by creating large public sculptures out of debris. To date, Washed Ashore has created 66 giant sculptures featuring marine life out of 17 tons of garbage that has been collected from Oregon beaches by the nonprofit SOLVE. According to a 2018 report from international data and research firm Our World In Data, an estimated 8 million tons of plastic garbage entered the world’s oceans in 2010.

With a mission to “awaken hearts and minds of viewers to the global marine debris crisis,” Washed Ashore’s work has been featured at such high-profile tourist destinations as SeaWorld parks, the San Francisco Zoo, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and Disney’s Epcot Theme Park. However, the organization has lacked presence on the Oregon Coast.

“In the midst of all of that we didn’t have a lot of ability or capacity to do things locally,” says Executive Director John Tannous. “This project we are doing with OCVA is part of our effort to have more of an impact in our home state.”

This spring OCVA organized presentations for Tannous in the towns of Bay City, Seaside, Yachats and Gleneden Beach to explain Washed Ashore’s mission, the goal of expanding the public art program and the new artist residency. Tannous says because of OCVA’s strong networking connections, the meetings were a big success.

“I was really impressed with different communities, their involvement with arts, the energy that is there and the overwhelming willingness to unite the Oregon Coast around community projects,” he says.

Sears says the presentations offered the chance to gauge communities’ interest in hosting public art installations. Washed Ashore and OCVA will evaluate proposals from interested communities for the sculptures and artists for the residencies. Residencies will take place in Bandon at Washed Ashore with the hope that those artists will take the techniques and mission back to their own towns. The idea for a residency was bolstered by an online survey conducted earlier this year in which 212 Oregon Coast artists responded to questions about using marine debris in their work.

Any public art sculpture created through this partnership will be included in the still developing Oregon Coast Public Art Trail, which will guide visitors to public art installations up and down the Coast.

Tannous emphasizes that the project is about far more than beautification and entertainment.

“It goes deeper than that. We want people to stop, get out of their cars and look at these sculptures. We want them to read the interpretive signage and learn about the issue and then visit these communities.”

For more information about the program, contact John Tannous.