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conservation: one elephantine step at a time

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October 08, 2012

Creative Conservation - Helping save elephants one step at a time  See more


EVENT DATE: Feb 08, 2013

Rabab Fayad


The conservation project entitled conservation: one elephantine step at a time is an initiative aimed at furthering the idea of art transforming policy and aiding in conservation and ecosystem preservation by turning natural animal behaviour – namely elephant behaviour into art.

The project is looking to work closely with the Elephant Nature Park of Chiang Mai, Thailand (ENP), and with volunteer art curators and a specialist in art-ecology fusion to raise funds for elephant conservation and reforestation.

The objective of the program is to raise awareness about conservation and raise funds for ENP to reforest and maintain the elephant habitats by turning an elephant’s natural behaviour into something that captures their being and is also a desired art piece.

The project is not only to raise funds for ENP, reforestation, elephant conservation and enhance conservation awareness; but to pilot a sustainable conservation project that is potentially a healthy model for other sanctuaries which could benefit from the system.

We would like to apply for a small grant that would help the project team pay for the expenses related to project development such as purchasing the canvas, art supplies, and short stay in Thailand at the elephant park to complete between 30-50 paintings as well as create a conservation video for the project.

Our approach

Recognizing the controversy surrounding traditional elephant art; whereby an elephant paints with its trunk, we are working to curate a methodology that is not harmful to the elephant but still invokes emotion and captures the being of the elephant as well raises awareness and creates art which captures an interest by society.

The approach we propose is through an elephant’s footprint. The idea is to paint elephant feet with organic vegetable dye and have them walk on a durable canvas. In this regard we have been consulting centers/sanctuaries/zoos and scientific literature to learn more about elephant behaviour and rehabilitation. As a result the art will work within the boundaries of the elephant’s natural tendencies and limitations so that it may not only create “art” but is also part of the rehabilitation routine for elephants.

The foot-printed canvases would then be cut accordingly and sold at a gallery in Geneva, Switzerland. The proceeds would be distributed directly back to the ENP for use toward elephant conservation, reforestation and related programs. A conservation video of the event from start to finish would also be available and could be the first step in serving as a guide for others who might want to replicate the project.

The when & where: Late February / March 2013. Art gallery in Geneva, Switzerland.
We are in the process of approaching galleries with this concept and proposing general parameters. Ideally, a gallery will donate space for the show. We would host a private invitation-only opening at an art gallery, wherein an explanation of the Elephant Nature Park and footprint project would be relayed to invitees. Following the opening, we hope the show will remain for two weeks and open to the general public.

the outreach:
On a preliminary basis, we have relayed the concept to a few select people in media to gauge the willingness of the Geneva community to publicize such a gallery event. We have interest from World Radio Swiss to run a piece in order to generate interest, awareness and publicity for the art gallery event and elephant conservation more broadly. We also have connections with Vanity Fair and it is possible they would also run a piece. We consider outreach to be a key part of the success of this initiative.



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