For my final event, I visited the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Exploration Center, located near the Santa Cruz wharf. It is a free museum with the aim of educating the public on marine conversation in the Monterey Bay Area. The center makes use of a number of artistic sculpture pieces, film, and multimedia installations in order to do this.
First, I went into a small theater-like room and watched a film on sea otter conversation in the bay. Though we didn't really talk about it in this class, the medium of film has a long history of being intertwined with scientific education. I grew up watching David Attenborough documentaries, and the semi-recent documentary Planet Earth makes use of amazing camera work and editing in order to educate the public on the beauty and wonder of the natural world. At the center, film is used as a means to bring awareness to the plight of the sea otter. In this way science and art work together as a form of environmental activism (similar to the bicycle/green energy exhibit at the MAH, which I attended last month).
My favorite part of the center was the large, life-sized kelp forest installation, where sculpted kelp, sea lions, and other sea creatures make the visitor feel as though they are walking in a kelp forest. Sculpted star fish, anemones, and other bottom-dwelling creatures at the rocky bases of the kelp are accompanied by buttons that, when pressed, prompt an audio recording that gives information regarding that particular species. By making the visitor feel as though they are in the kelp forest, surrounded by its amazing biodiversity, the installation fosters a connection between the audience and the otherwise often inaccessible world under the ocean. As someone who lives in the Monterey Bay area, it moved me to feel closer to the biodiversity in my own metaphorical "backyard." This then ties back into conversation, causing the public to feel invested and attached to the threatened natural ecosystem of the Monterey Bay. It was a very, very cool way to use art as a means to foster environmental activism.
Overall, I was glad I visited this center. I'd always seen it walking around near the beach, but had never ventured inside. Overall, it was another reminder of the way that science and the arts can work in a harmonious synchrony to bring about positive social change.