About Taronga’s Artist in Residence program:
The Taronga Foundation created an Artist in Residence (AiR) program in 2009 as a fundraising initiative joining the natural inspiration of wildlife with art’s many mediums.
The ZOO AiR experience has already given 60 artists a unique opportunity to meet and work with other artists in the outdoors, unleashing their creativity in new and challenging ways. Often it was their first visit to the zoo after a number of years. Many of the artists remarked on the important changes to the Zoo, particularly in the areas of education and conservation.
Taronga has a long association with the visual arts community, dating back to the late 1800s with the establishment of the Artists Camp at Curlew Cove, on land adjacent to what is now Taronga Zoo. The original camp site was recently refurbished by the Zoo, installing modern graphics and interpretation
Taronga Zoo holds a special place in our collective imagination. It is a place of childhood delight, a place to ponder the relationship between ourselves and other animals, and increasingly, a place that can mean the difference between survival and extinction of species such as the Booroolong Frog, the Sumatran Tiger and the iconic Tasmanian Devil. Zoos are now at the forefront of conservation through breeding, research and education programs that highlight the importance of wildlife and wildlife habitats.
Taronga is also a visual feast, and it is here that many of Australia’s prominent artists have embraced us through the Taronga Artists in Residence program. Each year, over the past three years, we have brought together 20 painters, sculptors and photographers who work in and around the zoo grounds. The resulting artworks capture each artist’s personal response to Taronga, and the diverse subject matter and interpretations are a testament to the diversity of Taronga itself.
At the end of the three month residency, each artist donates work to the Taronga Foundation for our Taronga ZOO AiR auction. We have raised over $360,000 through the sale of dozens of wonderful zoo-inspired artworks since the program began.
We are very grateful to the artists for their generosity, donating their time and artworks to support us. All proceeds directly help our conservation projects within Taronga and in the field. Current projects include reforestation of national parks in Borneo, anti-poaching campaigns in Zambia, tree planting in endangered Regent Honeyeater habitats in Victoria and NSW, and veterinary support of Brush-tailed Rock Wallabies in the Jenolan Caves region.
We are also indebted to the galleries which represent the artists, to Jim Crofts Studios for framing donated artworks free of charge, Gillian Shaw and the team at the University Gallery, Newcastle and auction house, Bonhams.
Following the successful establishment of the program with annual showings over the last three years, the Zoo will now host this collaboration of art and nature every two years, with the next Artists in Residence program set down for 2013.