The Coastorama Cooperative is Hope Ginsburg, John Byrd, Maxwell Parker and the students of the Fall 2019 USF class Sponge Exchange. Coastorama takes inspiration from the Spongeorama dioramas of Tarpon Springs, Florida to examine the effects of the climate crisis on coastal Florida and its species. Coastorama was produced for the Sponge Exchange exhibition at USFCAM, curated by Sarah Howard.

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Coastorama Cooperative

Coastorama, 2019–2020

Mixed media site-specific installation

Dimensions variable


Ashley Rivers and Margherita Tibaldo

Corals: Ocean Warming

The coral diorama depicts the first-ever lab spawning of Atlantic hard corals at The Florida Aquarium Center for Conservation in August 2019.


Mackenzie Erickson and Samantha Redman

Sea Turtle: Sea Level Rise

Sea level rise threatens sea turtles’ nesting habitat. Depicted here a sea turtle swims past a future submerged Spongeorama.


Leonardo Claudio, Jessie Saldivar and Marissa Snow

Sea Snails: Ocean Acidification

This underwater scene captivates viewers with fascinating pteropods, swimming sea snails, to invoke curiosity about these creatures that are threatened by ocean acidification.


Hope Ginsburg, Michael Royce*, Joshua Quarles* and Maxwell Parker

Gulf of Mexico Bryde's Whale: Endangered Species

The Coastorama Cooperative rides an endangered Gulf of Mexico Bryde’s whale, which honors the 100 remaining animals in the gulf and signals the importance of collaboration to this project and to grappling with climate crises. The underwater camper references Ginsburg’s backyard studio, from which she video-conferenced several Sponge Exchange class sessions.


Alex Lopez, James Ritman and James Wysolmierski

Lionfish: Invasive Species

The Lion’s Fin Café proposes a solution to the invasive lionfish population explosion by serving a range of dishes featuring the predatory species.


Dalton Howard, Daniel Sulbaran and Alejandro Wolf

Smalltooth Sawfish: Endangered Species

The smalltooth sawfish has been listed as a critically endangered species since 2003 due to trapping in commercial and recreational fishing nets and habitat loss.


Jhen Lee and Andrew Ryan

Mangroves: Tropical Cyclones

Threatened by a range of climate-induced factors, such as powerful storms, changes to water salinity, and pollution, mangroves serve as an essential habitat and protection barrier.


Veronica Brewster and Vivian Fisk

Manatee: Harmful Algal Blooms

Peer through the viewfinder to reveal the severe health effects of harmful algal blooms on marine species, including the manatee, the official state marine mammal of Florida.


* artist collaborators not enrolled in the Sponge Exchange class


Coastorama was made for the Sponge Exchange exhibition, January 17–March 7, 2020, at the USF Contemporary Art Museum, curated by Sarah Howard. Many thanks to Sarah Howard, Eric Jonas, Anthony Wong Palms, Vincent Kral, Shannon Annis, Maxwell Parker and John Byrd for their work and brainpower on the installation.


The Sponge Exchange Class: Coastorama Cooperative

The Sponge Exchange class was born of Hope Ginsburg’s pedagogical project Sponge (2006–2016), which produces hands-on, collaborative projects that transfer knowledge experientially. A community of engaged students, artists, museum professionals, and scientists had the opportunity to make a new iteration of Sponge at USF in fortuitous proximity to Tarpon Springs, “The Sponge Diving Capital of the World”. The goal was a series of cooperatively-produced coastal ecology dioramas for exhibition at USFCAM, inspired by the 1960s-era Spongeorama sponge-diving dioramas of Tarpon Springs. Ginsburg, co-teacher USF Professor John Byrd, Teaching Assistant Maxwell Parker, and the students began with a series of questions. Which coastal climate issues would the group research? Which species would symbolize these crises? Which material processes would be used? Most importantly, what would the dioramas look like and would they incite curiosity, empathy, even action in viewers? The class began by honing a list of research topics via readings, discussion, and visits with experts. Small groups presented findings to the class and cohorts were formed for the next step: pairing each coastal phenomenon with an impacted species. Students participated in material process demos such as sculpting with paper mache; they were also asked to consider and record the environmental impact of their material choices. The group made additional field trips, including the Florida Aquarium’s Coral Arks at Apollo Beach, where Atlantic hard corals spawned in a lab for the first time. The students, by then appropriately named Coastorama Cooperative after their nascent Coastorama dioramas, revisited the idiosyncratic presentation strategies of Spongeorama for inspiration. Concept development came next and students presented drawings and 3D animal prototypes. Curator Sarah Howard and visiting critics from the USFCAM joined class critiques as students refined their ideas, beginning to move sculpted elements into their custom diorama boxes. From midterm through the final critique students experienced real-world conditions, working with others within budgetary and timeline constraints to prepare artworks for exhibition. Cooperation, learning-by-doing, experimentation, knowledge-exchange, and engagement with site are the DNA of Sponge, which has vigorously evolved through the Sponge Exchange class and its collaborative environmental project.


Read about Coastorama in the Sponge Exchange exhibition catalog

Installation view
Photo: Will Lytch
Ashley Rivers and Margherita Tibaldo
"Corals: Ocean Warming"
Photo: Will Lytch
Ashley Rivers and Margherita Tibaldo
"Corals: Ocean Warming"
Photo: Will Lytch
Installation view
Photo: Will Lytch
Mackenzie Erickson and Samantha Redman
"Sea Turtle: Sea Level Rise"
Photo: Will Lytch
Mackenzie Erickson and Samantha Redman
"Sea Turtle: Sea Level Rise"
Photo: Will Lytch
Leonardo Claudio, Jessie Saldivar and Marissa Snow
"Sea Snails: Ocean Acidification"
Photo: Will Lytch
Leonardo Claudio, Jessie Saldivar and Marissa Snow
"Sea Snails: Ocean Acidification"
Photo: Will Lytch
Hope Ginsburg, Michael Royce, Joshua Quarles and Maxwell Parker
"Gulf of Mexico Bryde's Whale: Endangered Species"
Photo: Will Lytch

Link to more info on project page in archive

Hope Ginsburg, Michael Royce, Joshua Quarles and Maxwell Parker
"Gulf of Mexico Bryde's Whale: Endangered Species"
Photo: Will Lytch

Link to more info on project page in archive

Hope Ginsburg, Michael Royce, Joshua Quarles and Maxwell Parker
"Gulf of Mexico Bryde's Whale: Endangered Species"
Photo: Will Lytch

Link to more info on project page in archive

Installation view
Photo: Will Lytch
Alex Lopez, James Ritman and James Wysolmierski
"Lionfish: Invasive Species"
Photo: Will Lytch
Alex Lopez, James Ritman and James Wysolmierski
"Lionfish: Invasive Species"
Photo: Don Fuller
Video: James Wysolmierski


Installation view
Photo: Will Lytch
Dalton Howard, Daniel Sulbaran and Alejandro Wolf
"Smalltooth Sawfish: Endangered Species"
Photo: Will Lytch
Jhen Lee and Andrew Ryan
"Mangroves: Tropical Cyclones"
Photo: Will Lytch
Veronica Brewster and Vivian Fisk
"Manatee: Harmful Algal Blooms"
Photo: Will Lytch
Veronica Brewster and Vivian Fisk
"Manatee: Harmful Algal Blooms"
Photo: Will Lytch
Veronica Brewster and Vivian Fisk
"Manatee: Harmful Algal Blooms"
Photo: Will Lytch
Installation view
Photo: Will Lytch