Art-ride: Visit The Marine Mammal Center Exhibit via Bicycle

Ride out past the Marin Headlands just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge and you quickly forget that only six miles to the south you left behind San Francisco—the second most densely populated city in the United States. That’s because this hilly, rugged terrain that makes up the southernmost point of Marin County remains almost entirely undeveloped to this day, save a few relics of old military installations from the Cold War and the Point Bonita Lighthouse. Also based here is the The Marine Mammal Center - a private non-profit dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing injured marine mammals.

Since 1975, The Marine Mammal Center maintained fairly modest operations near Rodeo Beach. However, in 2009 the center opened up a new state-of-the-art facility, complete with new workspace for veterinarians and marine biologists, upgraded holding pens for the hundreds of animals that come through each year, as well as classrooms and exhibit space. The latter additions are especially important considering The Marine Mammal Center’s education program reaches over 100,000 school children each year. The center also uses exhibit space to welcome projects such as its current offering,Washed Ashore: Plastics, Sea Life, and Art—a touring art installation that demonstrates how man’s impact can have long-term, detrimental effects to the oceans and the animals that live there.

Angela Haseltine PozziThe Washed Ashore installation is the brainchild of artist and educator Angela Haseltine Pozzi, an Oregon native and art educator who started the project after seeing the beaches of her hometown of Bandon, Oregon littered with plastic and trash. She decided the best way to demonstrate the impact of dumping plastics into the ocean was to create large sculptures of animals out of the very trash she found on the beach. The result was an incredible assortment of beautiful yet haunting sculptures made up of a variety of different items that were thrown away at one point or another in North America or even Asia, ended up in the ocean, and floated to the beaches of Bandon.

marine mammal center

Each sculpture Ms. Pozzi creates is made out of approximately 98% discarded plastic, from soap bottles to flip-flops, and from plastic caps to children’s toys. She also uses pieces of metal and nylon netting to binds the sculptures, and attempts to avoid using any new material in her projects. Some of the most striking sculptures currently on display at The Marine Mammal Center are “Henry” the Fish, a colorful vertebrate made up of orange, yellow, and red plastics; “Lidia”, a seal made up only of lids and bottle caps; the “Flip Flop Fish”, a collage made up of polyurethanes soles of discarded sandals; and a large jellyfish made out of discarded water bottles. The most haunting sculpture? A stretch of sun-bleached, discarded Styrofoam that looks like a dead coral reef.

marine mammal center

With each sculpture is a description of the materials used and how those materials affect a particular species’ habitat. The signage also has several important calls-to-action that stress how we can limit, reduce, or end the impact of our junk ending up in the ocean. Since many of the animals that come to The Marine Mammal Center are in distress because they either ate, were injured, or became entangled by man-made trash, the exhibits also provide photos – more often than not graphic but necessary depictions – of the types of animals they rescue, such as seals, sea lions, whales, and dolphins.

Aside from Ms. Pozzi’s stunning exhibit, visitors can view almost all areas of work within The Marine Mammal Center, including the veterinarian clinic, the fish kitchen — where tasty meals of herring, salmon oil, and krill – are prepared to feed the patients, and the animal pens where harbor seals, elephant seals and the like are housed to convalesce and rest before they are rehabilitated and released back into the ocean.

THE EXHIBIT AND THE MARINE MAMMAL CENTER

marine mammal centerWashed Ashore: Plastics, Sea Life, and Art started at The Marine Mammal Center on June 25 and will continue through October 15. Admission to the exhibit as well as entrance into The Marine Mammal Center is free. The center is open to the public every day from 10am to 5pm, with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Visitors may reserve spots on a docent-led tour held three-times daily at 11am, 1pm, and 3pm for $7

HOW TO GET THERE

From the Vista Point Overlook on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge, it’s exactly 4.1 miles to The Marine Mammal Center. Ride on Alexander Avenue down toward Sausalito, but make a left onto Danes Drive. The tunnel has a dedicated bike path right through it, after which you’ll wind on down Bunker Road to Rodeo Lagoon. Follow the signs toward Fort Cronkhite and The Marine Mammal Center to the right. Blazing Saddles can also provide tips and directions from their headquarters and rental locations.

TAKE ACTION

If you see a distressed, sick, or endangered marine mammal, call (415) 289-SEAL (7325) where a volunteer is available to take calls 24-7. For more information on reporting stranded or distressed animals, click here.

For more information about Angela Haseltine Pozzi’s work and how you can help save our oceans, check out the Washed Ashore website.

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