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The Whale Project

8207581106_d2f973eb14_oThe idea for the Whale Project was born when Professor Marie Weichman heard a news story about a dead whale that washed ashore in West Seattle.  It had died because of several pounds of plastic waste found in it’s stomach. Months later on a boat ride in Maui she spotted a baby whale that did a full breach and dive. Recalling the fate of the deceased whale in Seattle, Professor Weichman began to reflect on her role as an artist and  teacher and how she could inspire change. “I8142507251_067d880f51_o knew I needed to show people their beauty and the sad reality for which we humans are responsible.”

Professor Weichman embarked on a project that would involve art, welding, manufacturing, and marine science. Faculty and students collaborated to create a whale comprised of steel, fence materials, chicken wire and plastic bags. “Art is made much more powerful when created by a group of diverse participants and enjoyed by an even larger audience of community members,” says Professor Weichman. The plastic bags are one of the many types of debris found in Puget Sound although bags used for the whale were not taken from the Sound. Olympic College has a monthly debris collection and analysis program organized by Geography Professor Susan Digby.


The team goes over the CAD drawings. Photo by Joanie Reynolds.


Debris 2

A few of the bottles contained messages.










The steel skeleton of the whale was welded by Olympic College welding student David Beckstead. He welded the skeleton in segments with the help of volunteers. After the segments were completed, the pieces were conjoined in the Olympic College  Art Gallery. Welding on the project took all summer long. To create the skin of the whale, art students wove plastic bags through fence material attached to the steel skeleton. Marine biology students composed a looped narrative about gray whales as an educational tool for viewers. The video was produced in the College’s audio and video recording studio with the help of Roger Nick, a Media Technician at the College.

Ron Raty, Technical Design faculty, made large computer-aided designs of the whale. That feature the steps that went into creating the project. The project required art and welding students to coordinate during the construction of the skeleton of the whale. Being collaborative and staying cohesive throughout the project was essential for this multidisciplinary project that fused art, media, texture, composition and form.

Ron Raty, Technical Design faculty, made large computer-aided designs of the whale. That feature the steps that went into creating the project. The project required art and welding students to coordinate during the construction of the skeleton of the whale. Being collaborative and staying cohesive throughout the project was essential for this multidisciplinary project that fused art, media, texture, composition and form.


Welded frame of ECO. Photo by Joanie Reynolds.

8290117152_8f35c94c8f_nThe Whale Project was such a success that Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent invited Olympic College to display the piece at the Norm Dicks Government Center in Bremerton. On display for seven months, the whale amazed visitors and local business people, who were inspired to name it “Eco.” News of the project reached the state capitol and Eco was invited to be on display at the Washington Legislative Building from January 3, 2014 through March 14, 2014. In April 2014, during Earth Week, Eco will migrate to the University of Puget Sound where the project will be on display.

Mayor Patty Lent has been working on getting Eco to Washington D.C. so that the project can be shown as an example to the nation of a successful interdisciplinary project that fuses art, science, and technology.  Those involved in the project have also been invited to talk at the 2014 Washington Higher Education Sustainability Conference. The power of art cannot be underestimated and the power of a creative, interdisciplinary project speaks volumes about the creativity, ingenuity, and vision of Olympic College’s faculty and students.

The Whale Project WallWhale_CityCouncil


With the support of Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent and Senator Christine Rolfes baby whale “ECO” will be installed on January 4, 2014 in Olympia in the State Capital Legislative building and remain on display through March 14, 2014.
Pictured here Bottom row: D. Shan Beckstead, Justine McNeal, Laura Priddis, Lisa Lopinski-Tyler, Jennifer Lynch, Charles Gore. Top row: Roger Nick, Al Kitchens, Joan Hanten, Theresa Helton, David Emmons, Christine Rolfes, Marie Weichman, Patty Lent, Susan Digby. Photo by Joanie Reynolds.

Kudos to Professors Marie Weichman (Art), Dr. Susan Digby (Geography), Elizabeth Keddy (Adjunct Instructor in the Biology), Ron Raty (Technical Design) and the myriad of students and volunteers along with the OC Art Gallery volunteers who worked on the project to bring notoriety to Olympic College.

Meet the faculty behind the Whale Project


Marie Weichman


Marie Weichman with Eco.

Having earned a BFA from Sam Houston State University and an MFA from Texas Tech University, Weichman has developed an extensive exhibition record.  During the summer of 2007 Weichman traveled to Jingdezhen, China where she spent two months as a resident artist at The Pottery Workshop and Experimental Sculpture Factory.  In 2009 Weichman spent three months working as Artist-in-Residence at the Guldgergaard International Ceramic Research Center in Skaelskor Denmark, followed by a short residency in Paducah, KY in 2010.  In 2008 she was included among Ceramic Monthly’s Emerging Artists and was nominated for NCECA’s annual Emerging Artist competition.  Her work has been published by CERAMICS ART & PERCEPTION, ARTSHOUSTON MAGAZINE, 002 MAGAZINE, and CERAMIC MONTHLY.    Most recently, her work was included in HUMOR AND CRAFT, by Brigitte Martin.  Weichman has been included in numerous exhibitions nationally and internationally including Peru, Germany and China.

As well as exhibiting works of art, Weichman is a founding member of Houston Seven, an artistic collaborative aimed at creating works of art that push the boundaries of the accepted definition of art while working with communities to highlight areas of need within the community.  From 2004 – 2006 Weichman operated a grassroots gallery focusing on emerging artists.  She is also a founding board member of EMPTY BOWLS HOUSTON.  Weichman currently serves on the Permanent Acquisitions and Exhibitions Committee for Bainbridge Island Museum of Art and has taught art at the Lubbock Fine Arts Center, Texas Tech University, Kingwood College, Sam Houston State University, Houston Baptist University.  She is currently teaching at Olympic College where she is Professor of Art and the Chair of the Faculty Gallery Committee.

Marie Weichman is an identical twin and draws from her experiences for the content of her work.  While working primarily in ceramic, she often employs other materials to help define the work’s meaning. Installation, repetition of form, found material and collaboration are a few of the ways in which her work is created and presented.  She can be contacted through her website at and is available for workshops and presentations.


Susan Digby

Dr. Susan Digby teaches geography at Olympic College. She has geography degrees from McGill and Carleton Universities in Canada and UCLA.  She has an education degree from Queen’s University, Canada.  Prior to community college teaching she worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Canada Center for Remote Sensing where she focused on remote sensing of sea ice.  Her working career started out with high school teaching geography, art and science in Eastern Canada.

Susan’s teaching interests focus on raising essential geographical awareness of both physical and human aspects of the world.  Physical aspects include climate, soils, water issues, and landforms; human aspects include population dynamics, place-making, culture, and social justice.  She views connecting students to their local and global environments  to be crucially important for both students and the environment.  Susan is particularly interested in the interplay between the fields of geography, art, and literature.  In 2010 she received the Bremer Exceptional Faculty Award.8754387219_acfc864a2f_n

Susan has two research tracks.  The local year-round project involves monthly collections and analysis of marine debris at Old Mill Park in Silverdale.  This program is in its fourth year and on average the Olympic College Environmental Outreach Club and Geography students collect over 10,000 pieces of debris annually that are sorted and catalogued.  The second involves research into place-making and art, particularly land art.  This work has largely taken place during summer vacations.

Susan travels, hikes, paints and gardens in her spare time.  With the exception of gardening these activities take place, when possible, in Mediterranean regions.

E Keddy headshot

Elizabeth Keddy

Elizabeth Keddy is an Adjunct Instructor in the Biology Department at Olympic College. She joined OC in the fall of 2011.

Elizabeth earned a B.S. in Marine Science at Costal Caroline University. As a student, she studied coral reefs in Jamaica, and bottlenose dolphin behavior in South Carolina.  She earned her M.A. in Biology of Moss landing Marine Labs through San Jose University. As a member of the Vertebrate Ecology Lab, Elizabeth participated in marine mammal necropsies, marine mammal and seabird tagging and tracking studies, and acoustical studies of harbor porpoises.

Prior to joining Olympic College, Elizabeth taught high school biology and marine biology and worked as the science coordinator for a submersible research company.

Elizabeth mainly teaches Marine Science at Olympic College. She incorporates experience and enthusiasm for science into her classes and hopes to excite Olympic College students to explore the natural world around them.

ECO on the Move!

ECO migrated down to the state Capitol in Olympia from Jan. 3 – March 14 in a continuing effort to educate the public about the consequences of polluting oceans and waterways.





















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