|By Susan Blower
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Not only are the animals at the Indianapolis Zoo inspiring original art, in some cases they are also the artists.
An artistically inclined orangutan, dolphin and sea lion, along with some juried humans, have created 21 artworks to raise money for conservation at the zoo. The top bidders at the silent auction on Thursday, Aug. 29, will take home these unique pieces.
“We offer (this opportunity) for the animals’ enrichment. Their art has been very well received in the past and is among the most popular. We change the animal (artists) every year to keep it fresh. Imagine having a painting by an elephant in your home,” said Charles Hyde, director of membership at the Indianapolis Zoo.
The annual event will take place at the Hulman Riverhouse at White River Gardens from 5:30-7:30 p.m. It includes a reception with hors d’oeuvres and wine, in which guests can mingle with the 15 human artists, who competed for a chance to participate.
The “naturally inspired” pieces include mixed media, a clay sculpture of an elephant and her calf, and a vase with a painting of a cheetah, all created by the artists while visiting the zoo last April. The artists were invited to choose an outdoor scene at the zoo and gardens that inspired them.
Their art has been displayed all summer for visitors to enjoy.
“This endeavor shows the connection between art and nature, the way animals inspire the creative process. The visitors can see this,” Hyde said. “They also have the chance to see our zoo through the eyes of an artist.”
Guests will be able to mingle in the Rotunda with some program birds, who will further the conservation cause.
Tickets and reservations are required. Zoo members and their guests pay $10, while non-members pay $25. The auction and reception are presented by The Great Frame Up of Indianapolis. Reservations are available by calling (317) 630-2046.
Hyde expects about 200 attendees. He said bidding starts at $150 and has gone as high as $1,000, although most pieces sell for $200 to $400.
“Not everyone will want a painting of a hornbill in their house. The art plays to (individual) taste,” Hyde said.
However, guests can get the double satisfaction of supporting the largest private zoo in the country, he added.
“We are the largest zoo with no tax-base support. Our general admission, membership and donations support us. It’s remarkable that we are able to do what we do,” Hyde stated.
The zoo continues to grow and change. Next Memorial Day weekend the Indianapolis Zoo will open a “world-class” international orangutan center, Hyde said. Fund-raising events, like the silent auction, go to support these efforts.
Eight orangutans, displaced from their homes by floods or other events, will find a new home uniquely designed for their well-being. They will be able to explore the zoo upon cables suspended 40 feet in the air – above visitors’ heads but highly visible to them.
Zoo members next spring will be able to get a sneak peak of the new exhibit, which will feature a tall tower that will enhance the downtown skyline, Hyde said.
The Indianapolis Zoo is located in White River State Park in downtown Indianapolis.