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The ZOO AiR experience gives artists a unique opportunity to meet and work with other artists in the outdoors, unleashing their creativity in new and challenging ways. Often it is their first visit to the zoo after a number of years. Many of the artists remark on the important changes to the Zoo, particularly in the areas of education and conservation.

John Olsen AO OBE, one of Australia's most significant artists, has participated in this year’s residency. Olsen is well known for his interest in conservation and in particular his paintings of frogs, many species of which are now endangered in the wild.

Olsen launched the 2011 ZOO AiR on Friday 28 January at Taronga Zoo. The artists taking part in this year’s residency are listed below. By clicking on the artists names you can visit their websites to keep in touch with current exhibitions. Artist Leo Robba, who participated in the 2009 residency, is again assisting with curating the program.

The residency is now in its third year and more than $300,000 has been raised to date, through the auction of dozens of works generously donated by the 40 artists who have participated so far.

ZOO AiR aims to give artists a rare insight into the work of the Zoo whilst raising much-needed funds for conservation.

On 15 February the artists camped overnight at Taronga’s Roar and Snore campsite, taking in a night safari, luxury tent accommodation and encounters with the Zoo’s animals and their keepers.  The following morning they were taken to visit the site of the historic Artists’ Camp established by Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton in the late 19th century and adjacent to the Zoo grounds, on Sirius Cove. The artists then spent three months painting, drawing and photographing animals, and documenting the work undertaken by Taronga in its endeavours to secure a shared future for wildlife and people. Special opportunities were also open to them, such as meeting keepers, vets and scientists, and going behind the scenes. 

In their turn, Taronga’s staff enjoy seeing how artists interpret the work they do and how they represent the animals. The project is highly rewarding for all those involved.