Birch Aquarium's New Exhibit Merges Art with Ocean Activism in La Jolla

Birch Aquarium's New Exhibit Merges Art with Ocean Activism in La JollaSource: Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Ben J. Costas
Published on December 05, 2023

Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego is gearing up to unveil "Hold Fast," an immersive art exhibit that dives deep into the beauty and plight of local kelp forests affected by climate change, this upcoming February 8, 2024. The unique collaboration features three local talents—a photo-based artist, a traditional Japanese fish printmaker, and a PhD student—each offering a perspective on these underwater ecosystems through their respective mediums.

Photo artist and co-curator Oriana Poindexter will sway your senses with cyanotype-printed kelp that brings the forest to your fingertips. In contrast, Dwight Hwang's gyotaku prints will offer an intimate peek at La Jolla's ocean dwellers, and Scripps Oceanography's own Mohammad Sedarat will drop the science, with cutting-edge mapping showing the dire straits facing these kelp habitats. Megan Dickerson, Birch Aquarium's Exhibit Director, captured the dual essence of the exhibit by asserting, "Warming waters and giant kelp don't mix. We have to be realistic about the outsized impact that climate change has on our local Giant Kelp forests," but balanced the concern with optimism, adding, "But at the same time, local people are doing beautiful things," as per a release from Birch Aquarium.

While the art itself immerses you in an undersea odyssey, the resonance goes deeper. The scientists and artists behind "Hold Fast" are not just presenting issues; they're embodying action and hope. Poindexter herself told Birch Aquarium that diving into the kelp forest and collecting specimens for her art is a therapeutic process in the face of climate damage. Dwight Hwang, meanwhile, is set to give visitors an up-close encounter with the region's sea life through his detailed gyotaku prints, demonstrating both his artistic skill and an appreciation for the smaller, often overlooked inhabitants of the ocean's kelp forests.

The show not only brings the issue home, but it also signals a shift at Birch Aquarium, where "Hold Fast" is set to take the torch from "Oddities: Hidden Heroes of the Scripps Collections," which since June 2018 has attracted over 2 million visitors globally. For the eco-curious and regulars alike, this fresh exhibit promises a blend of science, art, and hands-on engagement until September 2024, with general admission standing at $24.95 for adults and $19.95 for kids, and it's worth noting the aquarium's display is extending its open arms with hours that stretch from 9 a.m. to as late as 7 p.m. from March through Labor Day. Beyond the aquarium walls, UC San Diego Library is pitching in with "Ebb and Flow: Giant Kelp Forests through Art, Science and the Archives" at Geisel Library, further threading the narrative from historical observation to the urgency of present-day stewardship, according to details provided by Birch Aquarium.