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“Tacoma Ocean Fest”

Ocean-related art show at Foss Waterway Seaport

It is “Kelp Forest,” reclaimed plastics sculpture by Barbara De Pirro. Photo credit: Barbara De Pirro

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Former Tacoma News Tribune art writer Rosemary Ponnekanti, with the help of curator Lisa Kinoshita, has pulled together an amazing arts festival to take place Sunday, June 10, at the Foss Waterway Seaport. The event called "Tacoma Ocean Fest" will feature photography, eco-sculpture, film, dance, music, an aerial circus, painting, poetry, hands-on marine science for all ages, paddleboarding and kayaking and more. 

"I got the idea (and the first grant) when The News Tribune cut my job last year, and since then I've been working to bring together some pretty cool ocean-related art," Ponnekanti says. "Come celebrate World Ocean Day weekend with me and help protect our ocean. It's going to be an amazing festival and I'm working so hard for it, along with a bunch of talented, generous people. 
"As humans, we need to collectively step up to protect our ocean from plastics, chemicals, sound pollution, warming and the rest. I really believe that together we can do it. That's what ‘Ocean Fest' is all about."

A major visual art component is Barbara De Pirro's suspended sculpture "Kelp Forest." She used hundreds of reclaimed plastics to create this environmental installation. She collected, washed, cut and reassembled more than 300 plastic bottles to be suspended as a mass of kelp forest high within Foss Waterway Seaport Museum, enabling visitors to walk underneath its ghostly form, which Ponnekanti describes as swaying gently above our heads. De Pirro "makes ethereal beauty out of trash," Ponnekanti says.

I first discovered De Pirro's work when she did a Spaceworks installation called "Vortex Plastica" in 2010. In the eight years since then I have reviewed her art many times, and I never ceased being overwhelmed with the otherworldly beauty of it.

Annie Crawly is an underwater photographer and filmmaker. She will be showing works called "Our Ocean and You" including photos of whales, sea lions and octopi, as well as photos of the devastation of plastic trash strewn on beaches. Crawly will be the keynote speaker at the festival.

Mike Coots is a Hawaiian photographer and shark advocate who lost a leg to a tiger shark 20 years ago. He will be showing shark photographs. He has appeared on National Geographic, the Travel Channel and is an Instagram sensation.

Ponnekanti says, "The reason I chose these three artists -- other than the clear ocean theme in their work -- was how their work encompasses pure art, journalism and sport. I have been a fan of Barbara's semi-abstract eco-sculptures for a while. They take materials usually considered debris and remake them into something imaginative and otherworldly, a reminder that beauty can come out of anywhere, but also a reminder that as humans we make a lot of trash and we need to deal with it."

Other events and performances at "Ocean Fest" include performances by cellist Gretchen Yanover, aerialist performances by Deanna Riley, flamenco dance by Mrisela Fleites, songs by Kim Archer, Tacoma City Ballet's "Whale Song," and West African dance by Tacoma Urban Performing Arts Center. And all of that is just a fraction of the art and entertainment to be enjoyed.

"TACOMA OCEAN FEST," 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, June 10, Foss Waterway Seaport, 705 Dock St., Tacoma, free,

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