Seaweed Roundtable: Arts and Culture - New Bedford Whaling Museum

Doors open at 5:30pm, program begins promptly at 6:00pm in the Cook Memorial Theater. A light reception to follow.

Tickets are $10 for members | $20 for non-members.

Seaweed Roundtable: Arts and Culture

Thursday, October 5, 6:00-8:00pm 

Join us for a Roundtable discussion with experts on the culture and aesthetics of seaweed – including in painting, decorative arts, literature, and visual and material culture. Learn about how the exhibition The Cultures of Seaweed came together and discuss why seaweed appealed and continues to appeal to designers, fine artists, and authors.

This discussion is presented in conjunction with A Singularly Marine & Fabulous Produce: the Cultures of Seaweed exhibition which is open to the public from June 15 – December 3, 2023 and is curated by Naomi Slipp, Douglas and Cynthia Crocker Endowed Chair for the Chief Curator, and Maura Coughlin, Northeastern University. Much like the space of the shoreline itself, which is never a fixed point but always moving, shifting, and changing depending on the tide, seaweed is uniquely invigorated by its marine environment and always changing - both in form and appearance and in its cultural and social meanings and uses. Because of this, designers, artists, photographers, and artisans have turned to it for inspiration in painting, decorative arts, and design, and as the material medium with which they have created souvenirs, mementos, and scrapbooks.


May Babcock
Independent artist
Babcock is an eco-centric artist who transforms sediment, seaweed, and excess plants into handmade paper, revealing the complexities of various waterways. Rooted in hand papermaking and place, her interdisciplinary practice reconnects people to the voice of the land and waters, transforming plant fibers, seaweed, sediment, and site materials into expansive installations, organic sculptures, analog photos and prints on paper, and textured pulp paintings. Her artwork intersects the fields of hand papermaking, contemporary craft, book arts, ecological art, gardening, public art, community building, sculpture, installation art, printmaking, and analog photography. The artist teaches and exhibits widely, and has been the recipient of numerous artist residencies, grants, and fellowships. Babcock is also a Certified Invasive Plant Manager and a Master Gardener. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Connecticut with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting and printmaking and earned a Masters of Fine Arts degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Their monumental 2018 artwork Great Salt Cove Micoalgae is on loan to The Cultures of Seaweed exhibition.


Maura Coughlin
Teaching Professor, Northeastern University
Coughlin is Teaching Professor in the Department of Art + Design at Northeastern University, and was formerly Professor of Visual Studies at Bryant University, Her recent research and publications concern French Atlantic visual culture, wastelands, extractivism, cod fishing, salt and seaweed harvesting, coastal ecologies, and the rise of marine sciences in France. Coughlin is a member of the Vienna Anthropocene Network workshop “Towards an Ecocritical Art History” and co-editor of Ecocriticism and the Anthropocene in Nineteenth-Century Art and Visual Culture (Routledge, 2019). Works in progress include a study of French colonial dioramas at the 1867 and 1900 Paris Universal Expositions, a co-edited collection of essays exploring extractive 19th-century visual culture in North America, and a compendium of Object Lessons for teaching ecocritical art history. She is on the executive board of the Nineteenth Century Studies Association and also co-chairs an interest group devoted to Ecocritical Visual Culture for the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment (ASLE). She co-curated The Cultures of Seaweed exhibition, and authored the essay “Wrack Line Design: Seaweed in Visual Culture and Amateur Science in France” for the exhibition catalog.


Naomi Slipp
Douglas and Cynthia Crocker Endowed Chair for the Chief Curator
Director of Museum Learning, New Bedford Whaling Museum
At the New Bedford Whaling Museum, Slipp oversees operations and set strategic direction for the Collections, Curatorial, and Museum Learning divisions and manages a team of 13 staff. Previously a tenured Associate Professor of Art History at Auburn University at Montgomery, she holds a PhD from Boston University and MA from the University of Chicago, has worked at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, MFA Boston, Harvard Art Museums, and TERRA Foundation for American Art, and was Executive Editor of Panorama: the Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art. Her work and research broadly investigate intersections between art and science within a trans-oceanic context from the 1600s to today. This theme has manifested across her scholarly curatorial projects, public presentations and lectures, and traditional academic publications. Many revolve around knowledge formation and consider how historical ideas about scientific subjects — ranging from seaweed to marine fisheries to changing ideas about landscape and nature — were visualized in fine art and visual and material culture and widely impacted public understandings of a subject. Slipp served as lead curator of The Cultures of  Seaweed and authored the essay “Seaweed Gathering in American Art and Intertidal Economies as Coastal Culture.”

Marina Wells
PhD candidate, American & New England Studies Program, Boston University
Photograph Collection Curatorial Fellow, New Bedford Whaling Museum
Marina Wells is currently a PhD candidate in American and New England Studies at Boston University and the inaugural Photography Collection Curatorial Fellow at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, where they work with a collection of approximately 200,000 photographs, negatives, and albums ranging from 1841 to today. Wells holds a BA from Colby College in art history and literature, and has been a fellow at such institutions as the Nantucket Historical Society, Winterthur Museum, and the Mystic Seaport Museum. Their academic interests include gender and sexuality, oceanic studies, and nineteenth-century print culture, and they are currently completing a dissertation on the visual culture of the New England whaling industry titled “Making Men from Whales: Whaling Art and Gender in New England, 1814–1861.” They authored the essay “Seaweed as Material and Material Culture as Seaweed” for The Cultures of Seaweed exhibition catalog.


The Cultures of Seaweed exhibition, publication and public programming is made possible by major support from:


Presenting Sponsor


Susan S. Brenninkmeyer
The William M. Wood Foundation
The Wyeth Foundation for American Art

Additional Support from


Marnie Ross Chardon & Marc E. Chardon
Victoria & David Croll
Vineyard Wind


Jewelle W. & Nathaniel J. Bickford
Marilyn & David Ferkinhoff
The Nature Conservancy


Cynthia & Douglas Crocker II
Gilbert L. Shapiro


Vanessa & John Gralton
Keith Kauppila
Frances F. Levin
Maine Coast Sea Vegetables Inc.
Maine Seaweed Council
Beth & Carmine Martignetti
Carolyn & James Rubenstein
Springtide Seaweed, LLC