With Art, Montauk Oceans Institute Calls Attention To Ocean Plastic - 27 East

Arts & Living

Arts & Living / 1340888

With Art, Montauk Oceans Institute Calls Attention To Ocean Plastic

icon 3 Photos

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

author on May 16, 2016

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean floats a mass of plastic garbage the size of Rhode Island, maybe larger. The North Pacific Gyre, also known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, swirls lazily between the coasts of California and Hawaii. Four other massive gyres, or slow-rotating garbage vortices, adorn earth’s other oceans.For most people, the idea of that much floating garbage is at least vaguely disturbing, though not an immediate enough presence to cause actual alarm. But then there is the patch of garbage that formed in Gardiner’s Bay two springs ago. Jason Walter, the head of maintenance at the Montauk Point lighthouse, recalled it being two miles long, 100 yards across, in the middle of the Twin Forks—at least until its components dispersed and drifted out to sea. Finding garbage in Gardiner’s Bay is typical after the snowpack on the Connecticut River melts, according to Mr. Walter, but the regular occurrence was especially pronounced in 2014 due to the volume of snowfall that winter.

Plastic garbage in waters near and far is the inspiration for “Plastic Ocean,” an upcoming exhibition at the Montauk Oceans Institute featuring the work of local artists—and schoolchildren—to draw attention to the lasting and far-reaching environmental hazards posed by littering.

Of Chief Concern

Greg Donohue, a self-described “skinny hippie,” arrived in Montauk in search of “surf, girls and work, in that order,” 40-plus years ago. One thing led to another, and another led to a spot on the board of directors for the Montauk Point Lighthouse, where he has been the go-to guy for erosion control since 1990. Mr. Donohue learned from the best: Georgina Reid, a Montauk local who patented the cedar and phragmite-based terracing system that has kept the ocean from encroaching on the lighthouse grounds since she began working on it in the 1960s.

But erosion isn’t uppermost in Mr. Donohue’s mind these days. Those floating plastic garbage patches are, and he’s hell-bent on finding a way to use the Oceans Institute at the Montauk Lighthouse to begin chipping away at them.

The Oceans Institute, housed in the old fog signal building on the lighthouse grounds, launched last summer to celebrate the surf culture that has drawn water rats to the legendary point break near the lighthouse for generations. One driving force behind the surf exhibition was Rusty Drumm, the late East Hampton Star columnist and longtime Montauk surfer. When Mr. Drumm died in January of this year, his friends, including Mr. Donohue and Bettina Stelle, another surfer and benefactor of the lighthouse, decided to raise the bar in honor of his lifelong devotion to the ocean.

“When Rusty died, Bettina called me and said, ‘You know what we need to do. We’re going to spearhead a campaign to notify the world about what’s happening to our oceans—about the plastic in the oceans,’” Mr. Donohue said.

“There’s a huge island of plastics in every ocean on this planet, and nobody’s talking about it,” he added. “We are going to become a forum for educating people about what man is doing to the oceans. Our kids do not deserve to live with this mess that we’re making.”

Administrative director Michelle Swavely explained, “My hope for the museum is that each year we can highlight a topic that’s important to the local community, but can also be translated to a more global community. We really haven’t had a place where these conversations could live, where these conversations feel safe and natural. I think this is something that people at the local level have been looking for.”

The institutes’s board envisions its upcoming exhibition, “Plastic Ocean,” as a fusion of art and science that will both entertain and engage visitors, ideally motivating them to take action.

Local artists Scott Bluedorn, Cindy Pease Roe and Billy Strong will have works on display showcasing both the history of the lighthouse and the ocean’s current state of peril. Displays are planned to educate visitors about the most common plastic poisons in the oceans, and videos on related topics will run on wall-mounted monitors. “Plastic Ocean” is tentatively scheduled to open July 1.

A Whale-Load Of Plastic

Mr. Donohue, a landscaper and stone setter, is flexing his creative muscle with a wire sculpture of a humpback whale, 27 feet long and filled with plastic garbage. His motivation? Earlier this year, more than 30 whales washed up dead on European beaches. Necropsies showed that many died with plastic in their stomachs, such as a fishing net, a car engine cover and a bucket.

Two fourth grade classes from Montauk Public School joined Mr. Donohue at the Oceans Institute recently to help fill the whale—named Drummbeat in honor of the late Mr. Drumm—with bottles, balloons and other debris he collected on Montauk beaches over the winter.

“People say, ‘I didn’t know you were an artist,’ and I’m not, I don’t think of myself as an artist. I think of myself as someone who loves his mother earth, and we need to get this message across. A report just came out saying that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean.”

For the 92,000 visitors who come to the lighthouse annually, the new exhibition is a free addition to their visit. Mr. Donohue is counting on the visual power of the displays to move those visitors to get involved.

Henry Osborne, an assistant site manager and historian at the lighthouse, foresees great success with the new venture. “I think it’s a natural fit for us. The Oceans Institute was founded to focus on the ocean and the life that’s in it. This exhibit is really going to bring home the enormity of the pollution problem our oceans are facing.”

Ideas And Innovations

Literature and displays from several organizations involved in saving the oceans will give visitors ideas of ways they can help.

One of those organizations is Take 3, an Australian nonprofit with a simple message: “Take 3 pieces of rubbish with you when you leave the beach, waterway or ... anywhere and you have made a difference.”

The 5 Gyres Institute, named for the five gyres of plastic circulating in oceans worldwide, has set itself the task of figuring out how to remove plastics—especially microplastic—from the oceans. Their display will include a construction brick they’ve patented, made from recovered marine plastic, that is more durable than traditional bricks.

The museum will also house information about Bureo, founded by three Americans, David Stover, Ben Kneppers and East Hampton native Kevin Ahearn Jr. They learned that off Chile it was common practice for fishermen to simply dump their old nets overboard. Bureo collects the nets from fishermen, then renders the used nets into plastic pellets, which are then remanufactured into skateboards and sunglasses. Jobs are created, pollution decreased.

That simple positive step is what the people driving the Oceans Institute want to see repeated.

“It’s not about blame,” Mr. Donohue said. “It’s about getting people involved in finding a solution. Where are we going to live if we poison this planet?”

You May Also Like:

Tom Clavin Discusses ‘Tombstone,’ His Latest Book About The Wild West

Tom Clavin’s most recent book, “Tombstone: The Earp Brothers, Doc Holliday & the Vendetta Ride ... 27 May 2020 by Staff Writer

Goat On A Boat Presents “Judy Saves The Day”

After being pushed around for over 200 years, the famous hand puppet heroine Judy has ... 26 May 2020 by Staff Writer

The Bats Have Come Home To Roost

Tucked in the woods off a quiet road in Sagaponack lies Sagg Swamp, a hidden ... by Annette Hinkle

Southampton Hospital’s Gala Is In Your Garden This Year

The Southampton Hospital Foundation, (SHF), host of the Stony Brook Southampton Hospital (SBSH) Annual Summer Party, is delighted to announce the 2020, 62ndgala will go ahead, in a new, reimaged format. Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the gala, one of the biggest and longest running fundraisers in the Hamptons, will not take place in its usual spot on the fields of Wickapogue Road. Instead, the theme will be “Gala in Your Garden,” with the SHF bringing the party to private homes. The date of the gala will be Saturday, August 1. Working creatively with the local restaurant and florist ... 23 May 2020 by Staff Writer

HTC Productions Moved to Next Season

Due to the extension of Governor Cuomo’s Pause restrictions for Suffolk County, and out of ... by Staff Writer

A Call For Artwork For Long Island Biennial

The Heckscher Museum of Art is now accepting entries for the 2020 Long Island Biennial, a juried exhibition featuring works by visual artists from Suffolk and Nassau counties. The Biennial reflects the area’s thriving art scene by featuring artists representing a considerable number of communities throughout Long Island. The exhibition offers emerging and established artists the opportunity to gain broader public awareness of their work. Inaugurated in 2010, this 10-year anniversary of the Long Island Biennial coincides with The Heckscher Museum’s centennial. In honor of this milestone, this year’s Biennial exhibition, which will open in the fall with exact dates ... by Staff Writer

The Art Of The Monologue And A Tap Camp For Teens And Adults

Beginning June 9, Bay Street Theater will offer “Monologue!” an online acting workshop for adults ... by Staff Writer

On With The Show For The Sag Harbor Cinema

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and members of the Southampton Town Board are pleased to ... by Staff Writer

‘Very Semi-Serious’ Joins DocFest Online

The newest online “Fest Favorite” documentary offering from Hamptons DocFest was the 2015 film “Very Semi-Serious” which was added to the website on Wednesday, May 27. Directed by Leah Wolchok, the film is an offbeat and humorous behind-the-scenes look at New Yorker Magazine as cartooning hopefuls, like graphic novelist Liana Finck and legends Roz Chast and Mort Gerberg submit their work to Cartoon Editor Bob Mankoff. The film won a 2016 Emmy Award for Outstanding Arts & Culture Programming. Films still available via the website, most with Q&As from the directors’ appearances at the film festival in previous years, are, ... by Staff Writer

It’s A Script Writing Competition

The North Fork TV Festival announces the second annual Alfred P. Sloan Science + Tech Pilot Script Competition, which aims to encourage screenwriters to create more realistic and compelling stories about science and technology and to challenge existing stereotypes about scientists and engineers in the popular imagination. Writers are invited to submit pilot scripts for a television series rooted in science and technology. The panel of independent judges includes accomplished television professionals as well as noted scientists and technologists. In evaluating scripts, they will prioritize unique, character-driven material ending with a cliffhanger or twist that invites a series. Award-winning director ... by Staff Writer
logo

Welcome to our new website!

To see what’s new, click “Start the Tour” to take a tour.

We welcome your feedback. Please click the
“contact/advertise” link in the menu bar to email us.

Start the Tour
Landscape view not supported