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Local Students Turn Trash Into Treasure

June 24, 2021
Florida Aquarium


Tampa, FL (June 24, 2021): The Florida Aquarium is proud to announce the opening of A Lasting Legacy in Tampa Bay: Conservation Inspiration through Art, a temporary student art exhibition. The exhibition brings full-circle the events held in January including Dive 55, a day-long marine debris removal operation and beach clean-up on Anna Maria Island. As part of Super Bowl LV’s environmental efforts, The Florida Aquarium partnered with NFL Green and the Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee to leave a lasting legacy.

Today 24 pieces of art from students throughout Tampa Bay are on display at the Florida Aquarium; delivering a powerful message about marine debris and plastic pollution. From pieces titled, Dolphin & Friends from Gibsonton Elementary School to the Roseate Spoonbill by Caminiti Exceptional Center School, fish, birds and marine mammals off all types were crafted.

“We are honored to partner with Hillsborough County Public Schools on this art installation,” said Debbi Stone, Senior Vice President of Learning at The Florida Aquarium. “As students learn in a variety of ways, combining creativity with environmental stewardship concepts allows us to engage youth in a unique and memorable manner.”

During NFL Green Week’s Dive 55 effort in January 2021, led by Pepsi Stronger Together and FORCE BLUE, a team of retired special operations military veterans, and The Florida Aquarium, more than 1 ton of debris was collected in and along the Gulf of Mexico, including fishing ropes, crab trap buoys and more. After being cleaned and sanitized, 40 bags (from the debris removed) were distributed to students from Hillsborough County Public Schools.

Students from 14 different schools used what was collected to bring creativity and conservation together to design a piece of art that connects to the Tampa Bay environment. The project was made possible through the support of Erin Saladino, K-12 Supervisor of Visual & Theatre Arts Education for Hillsborough County Public Schools.

“The strength of our art education programs in Hillsborough County Public Schools is due, in part, by our supportive relationships with our community members. Having the opportunity to work with The Florida Aquarium has not only provided students the opportunity to use art as a way to communicate the importance of such an important cause, but also for them to see that their community supports the importance of their personal voice,” said Erin Saladino, Supervisor, Visual & Theatre Arts Education, K-12, Department of K-12 Academics, Academic Services, Hillsborough County Public Schools.

“Now more than ever, our students are finding how their personal voice can change the world.  What better partner to work with than The Florida Aquarium and its missions and providing opportunity for students to use their art to do so.”

Because plastic waste is harming wildlife and wild places at record levels, the consumption of single-use plastics and flow of plastics reaching our waterways must be significantly reduced. By turning trash into treasure, these student art pieces are meant to inspire audiences to consider the impact of plastics on Tampa Bay’s wildlife.

“While we know that the participating students expanded knowledge and awareness about plastics in our waterways, sharing their work with our Aquarium visitors expands this awareness by bringing student-driven messages to thousands of people of all ages,” added Stone. “It also allows students to be part of a public art exhibition, an unforgettable experience that can build confidence in young artists who are learning how powerful their voices can be.”

A Lasting Legacy in Tampa Bay: Conservation Inspiration through Art will be on display through International Coastal Cleanup Day on September 18 and can be viewed as part of general admission to the Aquarium.

Artwork was submitted by Armwood High School, Caminiti Exceptional Center School, Cleveland Elementary, Dover Elementary, Forest Hills Elementary, Foster Elementary, Gibsonton Elementary School, Lopez Elementary, Muller Elementary, Newsome High School, Rampello, Randall Middle School, Riverhills Elementary and Summerfield Elementary.

Recently, retired Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Martin Gramatica, who participated in the Dive 55 event, visited The Florida Aquarium to view the art and share his thoughts on this important initiative.

Contact The Florida Aquarium communications@flaquarium.org

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