A Whale of an Auction

Maria Mitchell Association | Nantucket, MASunday, August 13 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm, the Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) will hold a reception and auction highlighting the dangers of plastic flotsam in our oceans through sculptures made from plastic beach trash. The auction will be held at the MMA’s property located at 33 Washington Street, Nantucket. A whale sculpture made by artist Cindy Pease Roe, during her Artist in Residency at the MMA, and whales made by other local artists will be auctioned.

The MMA and the Artists Association of Nantucket (AAN) understand the significance of communicating important ideas through different modalities. Recognizing that a story told through visual art can be extremely powerful and illustrative, the MMA and AAN were thrilled to offer “up-cycling” workshops in July, as they educated the public about plastic debris and the ocean habitat.

Nantucket, as an island community, values its ocean resources tremendously as a continued source of food and income. There is significant concern over the growing amount of trash that finds its way to our beaches and oceans, ultimately impacting birds, fish, and mammals that rely on the ocean habitat. Additionally, the plastic is finding its way into the human food chain through micro-plastics found in the fish that we consume. According to MMA’s Executive Director, David Gagnon, “This MMA project was designed to bring awareness to this challenging issue, while creating a unique opportunity for residents and visitors to observe and participate in this creative endeavor and to bring awareness to this growing and significant problem impacting our ocean environment.”

An internationally renowned artist, Pease Roe is an individual who has been working tirelessly to spread the word concerning the impact plastics and other debris have on our ocean habitats. Pease Roe has garnered the interest of schoolchildren, art lovers, and activists alike by collecting plastic flotsam she finds along the shoreline and transforming it into thought-provoking and visually stimulating sculptures. Pease Roe works in a variety of media to capture the depth of her subject, including oil paints, encaustics, organic matter, recycled and up-cycled plastic, and sculpture.

Pease Roe and other artists were invited to help spread the word about the dangers of plastic flotsam. As part of the MMA’s Artist in Residence program, Pease Roe donated the whale she sculpted during her residency to the MMA auction, as did workshop participants and artists Jan Purdy Metcalf, Pat Jones, and Julija Mostykanova Feeney.

The whales will be displayed on August 13 and will include information highlighting the growing amount of plastic debris found in the oceans and on the beaches. Many of the sculptors identified the plastic ingredients used to construct each whale sculpture. As part of the MMA program, a school from western Massachusetts, The Academy of Charlemont, designed a whale surrounded by trash, a powerful image as one considers this problem.

The Maria Mitchell Association is a private non-profit organization. Founded in 1902, the MMA works to preserve the legacy of Nantucket native astronomer, naturalist, librarian, and educator, Maria Mitchell. The Maria Mitchell Association operates two observatories, a natural science museum, an aquarium, and preserves the historic birthplace of Maria Mitchell. A wide variety of science and history-related programming is offered throughout the year for people of all ages.