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Walls of the Wildlife Golden Lion Tamarin

Walls of the Wildlife: Advocating for Animals through Art

Animals are disappearing from our planet. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, scientists predict that more than one million species are on track for extinction in the coming decades.

It’s something that for many of us is hard to comprehend. That’s why Philadelphia-based mural artist Evan Lovett is using his talents to drive that message home—and challenge all of us to do our part to protect them.

Working on only one surface, Lovett challenged himself to paint 26 animals who are associated with Philadelphia Zoo– one for each letter of the alphabet. However, these images do not exist on one canvas together. For each animal to be painted, the one before had to be painted over, and effectively, disappeared.

A New Approach to Advocacy

“At first, I just wanted to do this project as an opportunity to show off what I was capable of and showcase an issue I cared about,” says Lovett.  “When I brought it to the Zoo and they accepted the idea of collaborating, it became so much more. It evolved into a relationship and an education. This little idea grew into something that will change the way I work forever.”

The Walls of the Wildlife, a project by VURT Creative is helmed by Lovett, works with wildlife and environmental organizations to paint murals that advocate for their cause through public art.

Many of the animals chosen to be represented in this art project are endangered or critically endangered. Here are a few examples:

  • There are fewer than 100 Amur leopards left in the wild, making them the most endangered mammal that lives at the Zoo.
  • Scientists believe the population of Chinese crocodile lizards declined an estimated 84% between 1978 and 2008.
  • Western lowland gorillas continue to be threatened by the expansion of agriculture, logging, mining and cattle ranching.

Painted, Then Painted Over

“One of the greatest parts of this project was getting to learn about these animals from Zoo experts,” says Lovett. “I was able to observe these animals and get a feel for their personalities, helping me connect more to the work itself. Admittedly, this did make me hesitate a moment longer when it came time to paint over them. It’s painful even, but it’s supposed to be.”

The “Alphabet Project” will be showcased on the Walls of the Wildlife Instagram page which is run by Lovett and his team starting Monday, March 20 and run through April 14. Each day, followers will learn facts about the animal that will be painted that day, watch a time lapse of Lovett creating the short-lived masterpieces, and learn directly from Zoo staff about these incredible creatures.

“Watching these stunning pieces come to life, just to see them erased, has been an emotional experience,” says the Zoo’s Director of Mission Integration Dani Hogan. “The unfortunate reality that this visual experience represents mirrors the most difficult parts of the Zoo’s mission, and reminds us about why we believe in our mission. The entire team at VURT Creative shares our vision for a future in which people and wildlife thrive together, and we are so proud to act as the host to this amazing project.”

“I can’t wait for the world to see what I’ve been working on, “says Lovett. “The message and motivation behind it are powerful, but the work itself is just a taste of what is possible when using art to advocate conservation.”

At its completion, prints of the murals will be available for purchase, with profits from each sale going to the conservation programs supported by the Zoo. Stay tuned to the Walls of the Wildlife website for updates.

Be sure to follow the Zoo on Instagram as we share daily updates on the project, and directly follow Walls of the Wildlife and support this innovative art project.

Walls of the Wildlife Golden Lion Tamarin

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