Andy Yoder: Overboard

October 24, 2020 - March 6, 2021

Click here for a virtual tour.


There are scores of solid, practical reasons not to be an artist, but luckily there are also some advantages. Being an artist teaches you to embrace randomness and uncertainty rather than trying to avoid them. This comes in handy, because no matter how much we try to control and order our lives, the messy, chaotic outside world finds a way to intrude—which is what makes it so interesting.

Thirty years ago, five shipping containers fell off a freighter during a storm, dumping 61,820 Nikes into the Pacific. As the shoes washed ashore on the coast of Oregon and Washington, a network of beachcombers collected and resold them. An oceanographer got word of this and collaborated with the beachcombers to create data, leading to an important study of the ocean’s currents. The news media picked up the story, and the oceanographer became a celebrity, making appearances on late night talk shows. Nike embraced his work and invited him to speak to employees about what became known as “The Great Shoe Spill of 1990.” I learned about this while researching ideas for a solo installation at CulturalDC’s Mobile Art Gallery, which is a repurposed, solar-powered shipping container. When those containers fell into the ocean, they made a big splash, and now the ripples have come to BMAC.

I’m a big believer in the possibility of second chances, which is why this story has such appeal for me. Most of the sneakers are made from materials I pulled out of recycling bins, like a beachcomber collecting Nikes on the beach. Making art is a form of alchemy, and being creative gives us the power to steer the ship, rather than bobbing around like a sneaker lost at sea. With this in mind, if you come across a shoe on the beach (or a flip flop, or a bottle), do the right thing, and toss it in the trash. You never know where it might go from there.

— Andy Yoder

Andy Yoder’s Overboard was originally conceived and developed for CulturalDC’s Mobile Art Gallery. Due to COVID-19, the exhibit was unable to debut with CulturalDC as intended. Following its showing at BMAC, Overboard will return to DC, to be exhibited with CulturalDC in the spring of 2021.

Support for Overboard as part of CulturalDC’s 2019-20 season was generously provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies, DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, Daimler, Monarch Construction, Double Z Electric Co., and Dallas Morse Coors Foundation for the Performing Arts.

Many of the sneakers in this exhibit are available for purchase. Sixty percent of the proceeds go to the artist, with the remainder split between BMAC and CulturalDC. Questions? Please email


Andy Yoder is a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Art and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. His work has been exhibited at the International Print Center New York, the Saatchi Gallery, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Reykjavik Art Museum, among many others. He has been commissioned to create work for numerous public installations, including for the Columbus Museum of Art, the ESPN Zone in New York, and Hilltop Montessori School in Brattleboro. He lives in Falls Church, Virginia. 


December 10, Thursday, 7 p.m. – Artist Talk: Andy Yoder (video)
February 18, Thursday, 7 p.m. – Trashed Inspiration: Oceans, Pollution, and Art (video)
February 25, Thursday, 7 p.m. – Unboxed: A Cultural History of Sneakers


Virtual tour
Photo gallery


How Jordan IIIs Became The Holy Grails Of Both Basketball And Hip-Hop
An Abridged History of Hip-Hop’s Relationship with Sneaker Culture


If the Shoe Floats (New York Times)
Artist Fashions Nike Air Jordan 5s From Trash (Smithsonian Magazine)
Sneaker Sculptures Explore 1990 ‘Great Shoe Spill’
(Vermont Public Radio)
How ‘The Great Shoe Spill of 1990’ Inspired a Modern Sneaker Art Installation (Sports Illustrated)
Schuhe auf Achse
(Die Presse Schaufenster)