Chattanooga Zoo Makes Art in the Wild
The Chattanooga Zoo may not have lions, tigers or bears, but what they do have is a few great artists! Meet Blackjack, one of the Zoo's unlikely artisans. With the help of some wiggly worms, Blackjack the rooster's favorite refreshment, he uses his feathery feet to create a collage of color. "Originally it was just a fun thing to do behind the scenes," Director of Animal Programs Mark Ryan says. "Keepers were looking for things to do and they made a big mess all the time and someday went wow that's cool art!"
Then zoos, like Chattanooga's own, decided that cool art could make big bucks. "It was a great way to get people interactive with the animals," Ryan says, "something they could have that's unique and a great way to raise money."
Besides this morning crooner, several other zoo residents bump the brush and practice painting with their sometimes furry features or even scaly skin, like Suzy the water monitor, whose technique simulates stamping.
"Wimbly the wallaby has big feet so he can make big impressions, others might have a feather, or a snake when they slide you get a rolling pattern," Ryan explains.
All it takes is a few plops of paint on a clean canvas and a mostly-willing participant, like the crowd-pleasing camels. "His technique is a little different than Wimbly's and Blackjack's," the Zoo's Special Events Director Kirk Parker says. "He's going for a splatter approach."
But whether its a camel creation, a lizard's labor of love or a red panda production, the zoo hopes these wild works of art benefit their bank account and their exotic inhabitants. "We spend a lot of our time on a daily basis thinking how we are stimulating our animals and what unique interesting things we can do for them," Ryan says. "And this just turned out to be one more thing we can do."
For more information about the Chattanooga Zoo, click here to visit their website.
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