Youth recognized for cleaning beaches, turning debris into artwork at Texas State Aquarium
The Texas State Aquarium announced the three winners of its Plastic Free Sea Art Contest on Tuesday and held a ceremony Friday to recognize the winning children.
Announced on Earth Day, the aquarium partnered with Reliant Energy to invite children 12 years old and younger to help clean up beaches in a creative way. After picking up debris on shores, kids had to then create artwork made from single-use plastic and other recycled material.
Over 60 children submitted artwork.
The first place winner was Juliana Martinez from Rose Shaw Elementary. Her piece was titled "Rescue Seahorse" and was made out of a laundry detergent bottle, a water bottle, aluminum foil and fishing wire. She was awarded four tickets to the Texas State Aquarium and $2,000 to her school's art program.
The two runners-up were Foster Baker from Windsor Park and Jaxon Aguilar-Ferrari who is homeschooled. Baker's piece was called "Trashy Blues" and Aguilar-Ferrari's was called "Trasher: The Great White Litter Shark." Each child received four tickets to the aquarium.
Windsor Park's art program will receive $1,000, and a $1,000 donation to the Texas State Aquarium's Wildlife and Rescue Program will be made under Aguilar-Ferrari's name.
Texas State Aquarium's CEO and president Tom Schmid said it is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
"We started many years ago focusing on some of the issues of plastic in our oceans," Schmid said. "Through our beach cleanups and interpretative work with our educational program, we're trying to get everyone in the Coastal Bend and Texas that if we use plastic products to dispose of them properly. We've seen firsthand the damage some of the plastic does to the wildlife."
All three winners said they submitted artwork because they think the community should help keep beaches clean.
Aguilar-Ferrari said he thinks schools should have field trips where students can go to beaches to pick up trash. Baker said he hopes people will start recycling and clean up after themselves when they're at the beach.
Martinez said she thinks people should care about the environment because animals have feelings too.
"I did my artwork because I was thinking about how even seahorses, one of the smallest animals in the sea, get harmed by pollution," Martinez said. "A lot of other animals get harmed from trash left at the beach. I want people to pick up trash and hold events where people can go help clean the beach."
The artwork will be displayed at the Texas State Aquarium until September 2021.
John Oliva covers education and community news in South Texas. Consider supporting local journalism with a subscription to the Caller-Times.