Whales become “superheroes!” in the new exhibition of the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum (SBMM) has opened four new whale exhibits, some of which were made with the help of children’s artwork from across the country.

The exhibits connect the relationship between the ocean, people, sea creatures and our environment.
Using a comic book style approach with an eighth grade target level, the “Whales are Superheroes!” concept is one of the centerpieces of the exhibition.

Everything is located in the Santa Barbara Harbor Museum.

On a grand scale, presentations delve into the role whales play in climate change and their influence on ocean ecology.

Maritime Museum Executive Director Greg Gorga said, “This is part of an environmental alliance of 14 different museums throughout Santa Barbara County, we all wanted to do something about climate change, so this is our part.”

Whales may have been overlooked in the climate change conversation, but Gorga says, “you can see whales in our channel all year round and they are an important part of our ecosystems.”

Students have a local space to showcase their work. Whale-focused artwork from Laguna Blanca Middle School, Peabody Charter, Santa Barbara Charter, and Santa Ynez Elementary School is on display.

This week there will also be a special zoom presentation titled “Santa Barbara Channel Whales and Their Climate Connection,” featuring Holly Lohuis, marine biologist, marine educator, and naturalist from the Santa Barbara area who has been instrumental in planning some of the new exhibits. It’s free and registration is required on the museum’s website.

Some of the artwork sent in from across the country has been converted into foamboard hanging in the museum’s theater. It gives the visitor the underwater experience through the work of young artists.

“We reached out to the community and went all the way to Virginia and Seattle. We received over 500 K-6 pieces,” Gorga said.

Art that has not been featured in special areas is still displayed on a TV screen downstairs in a rotating cycle of images.

“It’s just about making kids aware of the importance of whales as a species to our ecosystem and they’re right outside our door here,” Gorga said.

The two adult star performers are John Baran and Kelly Clause.

Baran said: “In my lifetime I have been blessed with an abundance of sea life, none more memorable than the greatest creatures on earth, the whale. I’ve spent hours in the water with humpback whales, and 10 fleeting seconds with a pod of orcas…”, but too often our oceans and whales are neglected. “My hope is that by depicting whales in many different mediums, this whale exhibit will encourage the viewer to pay even closer attention to these magnificent creatures and recognize their importance to the survival of the oceans and, therefore, the effects of global warming.

Clause’s images are unique and clearly demonstrate his spontaneity, style and fantasy. It depicts sea life – whales, turtles, fish, dolphins, lobsters and more – and plant life including palm trees, kelp and flowers. His work can be seen throughout Santa Barbara, including on the exterior wall of the Bluewater Grill restaurant. According to Kelly, as she spoke about her work and her vision, “Nature cannot be contained, captured or defined, but I always find myself wanting to touch it, hold it, recreate it.”

For more information visit: Santa Barbara Maritime Museum.

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