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BANDON — Community members "oohed" and "aahed" Saturday as Washed Ashore's newest art sculpture, Sylvia the Silvertip Shark, was introduced at its gallery in Old Town Bandon.

A volunteer point out details of a new sculpture during an opening Saturday, Jan. 5, at the Washed Ashore Gallery in Bandon.

Founder and artistic director Angela Haseltine Pozzi said the sculpture took months to create with hundreds of volunteers and staff members each lending a helping hand.

Like all the other pieces created at the gallery, the sculpture is made entirely of plastic pieces and marine debris collected throughout various beaches on the Oregon coast. Pozzi named the new sculpture after friend and renowned oceanographer, Sylvia Earle.

“When I first saw the Silvertip shark I just thought it was one of the most elegant and beautiful sharks I’ve ever seen,” Pozzi said. “I really needed to make this sculpture just as elegant and beautiful and Sylvia is those things to me as well a woman who is very determined.”

For the past eight years, Pozzi has been creating the intricate art pieces with the help of countless volunteers to aid in her mission in raising awareness of the ocean’s plastic pollution and how people can take action to eradicate the problem.

The nonprofit organization has grown substantially since its inception. With 70 art pieces, four traveling exhibits, about 21 tons of garbage collected and new possibilities to work overseas, Pozzi said she knew it was time to seek additional help.

Audra Gross holds her 8-month-old daughter Olivia Morgan as she looks over a new shark sculpture with her mother, Kelly Gross and husband Jon …

At Saturday’s reception, Pozzi also introduced the organization’s new executive director John “JT” Tannous, who joined the team last August.

Before moving to Bandon, Tannous worked in Arizona as the executive director of the Flagstaff Arts Council for 11 years. He also held previous positions as director of the Smoki Museum of American Indian Art and Culture in Prescott, Ariz., and executive director of the Tsunami on the Square performing arts festival, also in Prescott.

Tannous spoke about his excitement in relocating to the South Coast and discussed a few of the organization’s upcoming projects as well as his plans to increase its local presence in the community.

“We want to spread our roots here in Bandon and all along the Oregon coast,” Tannous said. “We’re going to organize more beach cleanups, host more of these kinds of events and possibly expand our hours of operation.”

Tannous also announced at the reception that the group is currently working on creating two new penguin sculptures to be displayed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Epcot theme parks in Orlando.

“We have about six weeks to create the penguins,” Tannous said. “We are going to have one penguin in our gallery unbuilt, which has never been done before, so visitors can come and see it in progress. It will have a stainless steel structure that volunteers can start applying plastic to.”

This year, new locations have been added to the Washed Ashore Traveling Exhibit schedule including a trip to the Tulsa Zoo in Tulsa, Okla., the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum in Little Rock, Ark., as well as the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City and the Toronto Zoo in Canada.

People look over art at a "Shark Party" on Jan. 5 at the Washed Ashore Gallery in Bandon.

“I wanted to bring in someone who would take us to the next level,” Pozzi said. “JT is really fantastic. He has really great ideas and I’m looking forward to co-leading this organization together.”

For more information on Washed Ashore and its possible volunteer opportunities, you can call its main office and gallery at 541-329-0317.

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