Client: NOAA Monterey National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center

Location: Santa Cruz, CA, United States

Completion date: 2012

Artwork budget: $110,000

Project Team


Santa Cruz Public Art Commission




Engaging Artwork Fosters Environmental Awareness: Evoking the visceral experience of encountering a whale in the wild, this life-size bronze sculpture features realistic skin texture including barnacles, inviting tactile engagement, fostering appreciation for the threatened Humpback whale and the conservation mission of the NOAA Monterey Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center. Heralding the entryway to the museum near the busy Santa Cruz Boardwalk, 14′ w landmark bronze sculpture has become a beloved destination and site of group photos and “selfies” that are posted online, enhancing the Museum’s outreach and branding – both at the museum site and online. Oceanic paving design also by Wowhaus features recycled glass that glimmers in the sunlight, heralding entryway to the Museum.


The goal was to activate the museum entryway, drawing visitors to the museum near Santa Cruz's busy Boardwalk. WOWHAUS worked very closely with the architects and landscape architects as well as museum staff to ensure successful integration in an area that had limited space in a busy urban area. Another goal was to create artistic treatment that retained ample gathering space for the many school groups that visit the museum; the artistic paving treatment anchored by a landmark bronze sculpture achieved this goal. Durability was a major concern; this goal was achieved by using highly durable bronze and concrete with pigment and recycled glass aggregate.


WOWHAUS collaborated with architects, landscape architects, and museum staff and scientists in the conceptual design phase; this dialogue informed our approach to creating iconic artwork to herald the entryway to this public museum close to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. Designed to be highly durable, engaging and interactive, the design is especially appealing to the thousands of schoolchildren who visit the museum each year. WOWHAUS collaborated closely with Artworks Foundry who hand-casts all of our bronze sculptures.

Additional Information

The artwork is a hugely popular destination, especially with children; the sculpture invites imaginative play and visitors often pose for “selfies” and group photos in the entry plaza.