TAMPA, Fla. — During the Super Bowl festivities, a group of divers collected more than one ton of trash and debris in and around the Gulf of Mexico. That trash was then given to 14 Tampa Bay schools where students, ages K through 12, turned it into art.
The finished pieces are now on display at the Florida Aquarium.
Amateur artist Alice Habgood is so proud to see her manatee hanging on the wall.
“I actually feel like important,” said Habgood, a student at Rempello Downtown Partnership School.
The 11-year-old is most excited about the message she hopes this exhibit delivers to visitors.
“They may see this and think twice about what they are doing, what they are putting in the ocean, what they are not recycling,” said Habgood.
From plastic bottles and caps to straws and egg cartons to old shoes, every material in the exhibit was pulled from Tampa Bay waterways.
“It was all brought into the aquarium and then it was cleaned by a lot of our staff members, sorted out, make sure that everything is safe, and then send it off to the different schools so they could start building and designing their projects,” said Matt Allen, with the Florida Aquarium.
The 24 pieces are all aquatic-themed, from sea turtles to sharks to jellyfish. The exhibit is called "A Lasting Legacy in Tampa Bay: Conservation Inspiration through Art."
“It's both rewarding and frightening at the same time because while this artwork is beautiful and amazing, the problem is it shouldn’t exist,” said Allen.
So far the reaction has been inspiring, as thousands of people both enjoy and reflect on the work.
“It’s exciting to see local kids from the area we are from make art like this,” said Hannah Carmichael.
“It is really sad, it’s horrible, to see our Bays, stuff is thrown out there all the time and discarded,” said Brandon Carmichael.
The artists, like first-grader Ethan Wyatt, say they’ve already learned an important lesson, now it’s time for everyone else to pay attention.
“All this trash, one animal could probably find it and then they might eat it, I mean it's really important that we do not throw trash in,” said Wyatt, of Summerfield Elementary.
The exhibit runs until the end of September.