Underwater art exhibit debuts on Key West artificial reef

'Plastic Ocean Project' took about decade to complete

By Annabelle Caceres - Local 10 Intern

KEY WEST, Fla. - A new underwater art exhibit debuted this weekend on a Key West artificial reef as a team of divers finished placing a series of artworks on an intentionally sunken ship in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

The long project, called Plastic Ocean Project, took about a decade to complete. It consists of 24 large photo illustrations created by Austrian artist Andres Franke. It is installed on the Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, a former U.S. Air Force missile tracking ship that was intentionally sunk to create an artificial reef.

The hope for the Plastic Ocean Project is to draw attention to the need to eliminate plastics in the world's oceans causing harm to the animals and plants.

"The inspiration for this whole project is that we have such a wonderful ocean, and we have to take care. We really have to take care of what is inside and what we do, and we have to keep it perfect for our next generation," Franke said.

The artwork is individually encased in Plexiglas and then mounted in stainless steel frames that are then sealed before being attached to the Vandenberg’s hull.

The artwork should accumulate the ocean's salt, algae and microorganisms.

"During these three months, we will have, we will see the signature of the sea, all the microorganisms will be, become a part of the artwork, so the artwork will be unique," Franke said.

Plastic Ocean will remain on the Vandenberg for shipwreck divers to enjoy until Aug. 25 before the images are moved to a gallery above water.

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