Art Gone Wild lets Oklahoma City Zoo critters get creative

The Oklahoma City Zoo offers another opportunity to look at the world from the animal kingdom’s perspective with its seventh Art Gone Wild animal art show.

Art Gone Wild is a collection of works created by animal artists at the zoo using nontoxic, water-based paint with assistance from their caretakers.

The free art show exhibit runs through Aug. 31 in the south lobby of Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory at Myriad Botanical Gardens, 301 W. Reno Ave.

Featured creatures include Asian elephants, giraffes, gorillas, sea lions, stingrays and red river hogs. Depending on preference and species, tools used vary from paintbrushes to noses, flippers, scales, paws, tails or trunks.

“The caretakers know their animals, and they figure out what would be best technique for the animal,” said Candice Rennels, marketing and public relations manager. “My favorite to see the art in motion would be the red river hogs. It’s like a full-body experience; they truly get into their art. The keepers will hold the canvas, and they’ll put a couple of dots of paint on the canvas. And the red river hogs will come up and use their snouts; they’ll roll their backs into it, sometimes they’ll use a paintbrush.”

Some elephants dip their trunks into paint to create the shape of their trunk on the canvas. Others spray paint out of their trunks to create abstract effects.

“We’ve worked with all the animal areas and keepers to collect enough pieces to do a bigger show,” Rennels said.

The keepers from Stingray Bay invented an incentive-based paintbrush so that stingrays could participate in the art show.

They created a paintbrush out of PVC pipe. The bottom is filled with shrimp for the stingrays to snack on and a paintbrush at the top sticks out of the water. As they eat the shrimp, the stingrays bump the end of the brush to paint on a canvas held by the keepers.

The exhibit is part of the zoo’s enrichment program, which provides the animals with a stimulating environment that fulfills their psychological, social and physical needs, Rennels said. Painting sessions are combined with other enrichment options like new foods, toys or climbing structures in animal habitats.

While animal art is available for sale year-round at the zoo, Art Gone Wild showcases new works. This year, species such as false death’s head cockroach, clouded leopard, Sumatran tiger, alligator, grizzly and black bears participate for the first time. The show began when elephant and marine mammal keepers brainstormed about how to provide animals with more enriching environments. Show proceeds benefit local conservation projects — conservation is one of the zoo’s main missions.

More than 150 pieces of animal art is priced by size, spanning from $50 for a 6-by-6-inch canvas to larger pieces priced at more than $500.

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Print headline: Wild expression, The Oklahoma City Zoo hosts its seventh Art Gone Wild animal art exhibit.

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