Northwest News

Tacoma seaport museum to open summer season Sunday

The message is large and clear: A 32-foot sculpture of a gray whale made from 9,000 plastic bags, Styrofoam cups and strips of plastic to get people thinking about recycling.

“At least that is my hope,” said Jan Adams, director of education at the Foss Waterway Seaport museum.

The sculpture is a creation of artist Carrie Ziegler, with the help of 900 students from Thurston County. It will sit next to a handful of other artwork made from marine debris that Tacoma children as young as kindergartners have made. The exhibit is part of the draw when the Foss Waterway Seaport museum opens its summer season Sunday (May 17).

“We thought, ‘Why not have the kids be the voice for change?’ ” Adams said. “In the process they can learn from their experience.”

This is the children’s first experience with marine debris, according to Adams. For them, “the Puget Sound starts here.”

“It was so cool to see the kids collect the trash and create something with it,” the former teacher said.

To get the education program at the museum underway, Adams, along with her husband, Mike, and father, Tom Baer, donated $6,000 to pay for supplies.

The art exhibit will inhabit the cavernous 45,000-square-foot former Balfour Dock Building along with hundreds of Puget Sound maritime artifacts. There will even be a railroad display, complete with hundreds of feet of track and model trains that the public will be allowed to operate.

More than a dozen volunteers buzzed around the exhibition halls Friday painting, polishing and installing streamers to get the museum ready.

The idea is simple: “We are cultivating a young audience, tomorrow’s audience,” said museum executive director Wesley A. Wenhardt.

“Museums tend to look at things from the past,” Wenhardt said. “Being involved in history is tricky right now. We are trying to blend the past with what is relevant to our youth.”