Tahoe Fund and Partners Unveil Sculpture Created with Litter from 72-mile Scuba Cleanup of Lake Tahoe

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From lures and bobbers to sunglasses, paddles and traffic cones, more than 450 pounds of litter recovered from Lake Tahoe brought the unique design to life. Photo: Tahoe Fund

STATELINE, Nev. (Sept. 27, 2023) – Artists have given new meaning to the adage “one person’s trash is another’s treasure,” with the unveiling of “Surfaced,” a new art installation created with more than 450 pounds of items recovered from last year’s 72-mile scuba cleanup of Lake Tahoe. Commissioned by the Tahoe Fund with support from Tahoe Blue Vodka, the sculpture was created to educate visitors about what was found lying beneath Tahoe’s blue waters and encourage environmental stewardship. It was unveiled today at its permanent home at the new Tahoe Blue Event Center in Stateline, Nevada on the south shore of Lake Tahoe.

“This sculpture is the result of the unprecedented effort by Clean Up the Lake to remove 25,000 pounds of litter from Lake Tahoe,” said Amy Berry, Tahoe Fund CEO. “From its prominent new home at the Tahoe Blue Events Center, ‘Surfaced’ will serve as an important and beautiful reminder that it’s up to all of us to take care of Tahoe.”

Using litter found underneath Tahoe’s surface, including lures and bobbers, sunglasses, paddles, traffic cones, chains, anchors, and rubber edging often found on docks and buoys, internationally recognized artists Joel Dean Stockdill and Yustina Salnikova, represented by public art agency Building 180, created an original sculpture depicting a bald eagle, Lahonton cutthroat trout and Ponderosa pine tree, as voted on by the public.

“Lake Tahoe’s beauty not only inspired me to move to California, but to create Tahoe Blue as well,” said Matt Levitt, Founder of Tahoe Blue Vodka. “From day one, I’ve been committed to conservation and am incredibly proud of what the 72-mile scuba cleanup effort accomplished. And now this amazing artistry, constructed of litter pulled from Lake Tahoe, will serve as a reminder of what a small group of dedicated individuals can accomplish and bring full circle that mission to preserve.”

Photo: Tahoe Fund

The artists, known for creating beautiful art from recycled and reclaimed materials, spent the last year working on the design and parsing through litter that divers from the nonprofit Clean Up The Lake had stored in a 20-foot container. Their goal was to find elements that would capture the distinct features of the animals being depicted in a way that was as close to their actual appearance as possible.

“Our biggest challenge was deciding which items would be able to withstand the weather and hold up over time, while also representing the colors and textures of the species we were trying to create,” said Building 180 artists Stockdill and Salnikova. “Prior to this, the sculptures we have designed have typically only featured one animal. This one was unique because it required us to think creatively about how we would use the litter provided to create three detailed, different sculptures, then merge them into a single piece.”

The design started with the artists deciding on the scale of the sculpture, then determining whether they had enough pieces of each type of litter to form the different elements. Although they were limited to using only things pulled from the scuba clean-up of Lake Tahoe, they found exactly what they needed to execute their design.

Stockdill and Salnikova collected precisely enough white paddles to form the tail feathers of the eagle. They used a mosaic technique to turn brightly colored bits of plastic — from sunglasses, lures and bobbers — into the thousands of tiny, life-size scales on the trout. The fins? Crafted from a traffic cone. And they made the bark of the Ponderosa pine tree stump out of hundreds of feet of chain. The stump, which measures three feet in diameter and is three feet tall, makes up much of the weight of the sculpture, which in total weighs nearly 700 pounds.

“We are honored and excited to see this litter-art sculpture become a part of our community here in South Lake Tahoe. It is meant to serve as a symbol to the public to remember to be stewards of our lands and our lake, and to never stop trying to make a difference,” said Clean Up The Lake founder and CEO Colin West. “Our dive team will be under the surface of Lake Tahoe all winter this year, working to do a more thorough cleaning of litter hotspots, performing deep dive exploratory surveys, and monitoring for any presence of aquatic invasive species around the lake.”

“Surfaced” can be found at the new Tahoe Blue Event Center, a 5,000-seat arena with an additional 10,000 square feet of meeting room space, located in Stateline, Nevada on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe. The Tahoe Blue Event Center will be host to 125+ events throughout the year including concerts, sporting events, family shows, conferences, banquets, meetings, trade shows, consumer shows, and more.

Photo: Tahoe Fund

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