Accessible Navigation. Go to: Navigation Main Content Footer
UM News
December 26, 2013

MISSOULA – The Montana Museum of Art & Culture and the University of Montana are prominently featured on this week’s A&E Television Network’s episode of “Shipping Wars.” The show premiered on Christmas Eve and will re-air at 4 p.m. MST Saturday, Dec. 28. The show highlights “The Plastic Whale Project,” a public art piece that MMAC presented to the Missoula community on Oct. 17, for one afternoon only. The piece was displayed on the stage of the George and Jane Dennison Theatre at UM.  

“More than 700 visitors viewed the whale sculpture back in October and we’re excited that some of those visitors, and the whole process of safely shipping and getting the whale set up here was filmed by the crew of the nationally viewed ‘Shipping Wars,’” said MMAC Director Barbara Koostra. “National media networks rarely travel to Missoula, and we were thrilled that MMAC, UM and the community were featured during their visit.”

The gray whale was 32 feet long and made of reclaimed plastic bags and other plastic trash. It was created by 900 youth and adults in Thurston County, Wash., as part of an education and outreach project about plastic bags. The primary goal of the project was to creatively engage the public in learning about plastics in our environment, to educate them about other options and to reduce the use of plastic bags.

Artist Carrie Ziegler, an environmental educator from Thurston County and the brains behind the project, traveled to Missoula with the whale to assist with the “Shipping Wars” move. She offered Missoula’s whale visitors valuable insights into the project.

The skin of the whale is made out of 9,000 plastic bags that were braided together by students at 15 different elementary schools. Middle school students formed the 6,000 feet of plastic braids into a mat, similar to a rag rug, to make the skin. The whale’s skin shows a map of the Pacific Ocean and the Great Pacific Gyre – now known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Ocean currents pull trash from America and Asia into the center of the Pacific Ocean. Mammals, birds and fish mistake the plastic for food. The map of the gyre is centered over the whale’s stomach, symbolizing the plastic stuck in the stomachs of marine animals.

The skeleton of the gray whale was created by art students at Tumwater High School and is visible on the whale’s right side. It was made out of disposable plastic forks and cups that are used in many school cafeterias, milk jugs and plastic foam. The design and outreach for the project was completed in fall 2012. The plastics presentations and whale-building workshops took place between January and April 2013. The whale has appeared in parades and celebrations in Washington.

In April 2010, a gray whale washed up on shore in West Seattle. Scientists found about 30 plastic bags and other plastic trash in its stomach. This event inspired the creation of the whale.

For more information on “Shipping Wars” and the episode featuring MMAC’s presentation of the whale sculpture, visit

For more information about MMAC, call 406-243-2019 or visit the museum’s website at





Contact: Barbara Koostra, director, Montana Museum of Art & Culture, 406-243-2019,