ANIMAL ARTISTS

p3Nearly fifty pieces of art painted by various animals living at the Micke Grove Zoo will be on display and available for purchase at the Double Dip Gallery in downtown Lodi April 4-30. This free art exhibit is a fundraiser for the zoo’s animal enrichment fund. Proceeds from sold art will be used to purchase new enrichment items such as toys, treats, and other objects that mentally and physically stimulate the animals to benefit their overall well-being. Zoo staff and two of the animal artists – twin African leopard tortoises – will be present and painting for 15-minute sessions at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m.at the Double Dip Gallery during the Lodi First Friday Art Hop
on April 4.

The painting program was started by Animal Care Specialist Carrie McMorris about two years ago in cooperation with the rest of the animal management staff. “The painting itself was enrichment for the animals,” McMorris explains, “and we decided that the pieces they were producing could be sold to help raise money to develop our enrichment program. Prior to that, keepers (animal care staff) had been purchasing enrichment items with money from their own pockets. Like with children, [toys] get old, broken, and boring. It is important to constantly provide new and interesting items to keep the animals stimulated.” The zoo has several species that “paint” abstract art, including but not limited to a capuchin monkey, yellow-knobbed curassows, black-and-white ruffed lemurs, fossa, Prevost’s squirrels, leopard and radiated tortoises, bobcat, Madagascar hissing cockroaches, Chilean pudu, and an African pygmy hedgehog.

Allison Meador, Director of Conservation Education, says the animals seem to really enjoy it. “Keepers such as Carrie use it as an opportunity to train the animals and provide positive reinforcement (like a treat) for interacting with the paint and canvases,” Meador says. “Painting alone is a stimulating experience for them. Personally, I love how the radiated tortoises will all come together as a hoard when the paint and canvases are laid out, and will walk through the paint and on the canvases in exchange for ‘back scratches’. Because the tortoises’ shells are fused with their spine, they can feel the scratch and do these funny wiggle dances!”

The Double Dip Gallery, which features both artwork and ice cream, is owned by locally renowned artist Tony Segale. With its grand opening set for April 1st, the gallery will host one benefit show each year in support of a different organization. Segale and his family chose Micke Grove Zoo’s animal paintings to be displayed for the first of the gallery’s benefit shows. “Our hope is that more people will have a different perception of zoo animals and be interested in supporting the animals and visiting the [Micke Grove] Zoo in the future,” shares Segale. “Of the paintings I have seen, the snow leopard paw paintings are my favorite because I like simplicity in design and those marks really grab my attention.”

BUY ANIMAL ART AT:
Double Dip Gallery
222 W. Pine Street
Lodi, (209) 365-3344
doubledipgallery.com

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