OdySea Aquarium is looking for artists ages 12 and under to create artworks of their favorite animals out of recycled materials in exchange for a ticket to the Aquarium and the chance at much bigger prizes. 

From now until World Oceans Day June 8, children 12 and under can make their piece, then fill out the entry form before bringing their artwork by the aquarium box office.

In the past, OdySea’s Conservation Art Challenge has attracted hundreds of entries. 

“Last year we had 411 participants in the competition,” said Jess Tammen, manager of dive operations and conservation. “Last year, we were just blown away. We basically filled up half the aquarium with the art pieces, and it was pretty awesome to see.

“Year after year, it seems like it’s really catching on in the community and we have a bunch of repeat artists.” 

The contest has attracted repeat artists using discarded items like milk cartons, tissue boxes, water bottles and other plastics to make caricatures, sculptures and paintings of animals. 

“The last few years we’ve been focusing specifically on endangered animals, so everybody in the past was finding an endangered animal and then learning on the Red List how endangered the animal is and how they’re being impacted,” Tammen said.

“This year we decided to change it up a little so we’re asking students this year to create their favorite animal,” he said, adding kids are still going to the Red List website to see if their favorite creature is endangered.

“But it’s been fun because we’re already getting a whole bunch of different types of animals that we’ve never gotten to see in the aquarium,” she added. 

So far, most of the early submissions have been jellyfish and turtles but Tammen has seen rare animals like a blue skate – an extremely endangered species of elasmobranch. 

She has also seen a large number of submissions dropped off by art teachers who devoted classes to create contest entries.

However, Tammen has also seen how this has driven home the main goal of the challenge: to reuse discarded materials that are harmful to the environment and a variey of creatures. 

“Having the students upcycle trash that has a harmful impact on the environment to make artwork, no matter what animal they choose,” is still saving that trash from going to the landfill, she noted.

“And they’re also getting to learn about plastics or metals or whatever they decided to choose and the impact those have on the environment when thrown away,” Tammen said. 

Because of this, it looks like OdySea Aquarium expects to have a tough choice to select five contestants to a prize bag and win an opportunity to meet one of the aquarium’s specimens. 

Tammen enjoys the pride that each child takes when showing off their artwork on display. 

“It’s really cool to be on the floor when you see kids walk up to see their art piece on display,” Tammen said.

“It’s something for them really to be proud of because they get to come to an aquarium that thousands of people filter through every week and then they get to say that their art is on display for all of these people.

I think the passion is definitely there.”

OdySea Aquarium’s Conservation Art Challenge

When: Submissions will be accepted Thursday, June 8. 

Where: OdySea Aquarium, 9500 E Via De Ventura, Suite A-100, Scottsdale.

Cost: Children ages 12 and under receive free admission by completing the Conservation Art Challenge.

Info: For contest rules: odyseaaquarium.com/art-challenge.


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