Art students paint for Erie zoo animals

When finished, the mural will cover 1,000 square feet of wall space at the zoo.When finished, the mural will cover 1,000 square feet of wall space at the zoo.

Mercyhurst College’s art education major Kevin Salem volunteers at the Erie Zoo.

When zoo staff mentioned that they would like to have a mural painted, Salem soon got the Mercyhurst College Art Education Club involved.

The mural will be painted inside classrooms and stage at the zoo. The art, which will cover an astounding 1,000 square feet of wall space, will be divided into nine “windows,” each of which will be designed by a different artist with a unique style.

Seven of the windows will depict animals from one of the seven continents, and the remaining two windows will have a mix of animals with a particular emphasis on animals currently living at the Erie Zoo.

In addition, students plan to top the mural with a quote by Jane Goodall, British primatologist well-known for her work with chimpanzees: “Only if we understand can we care. Only if we care will we help. Only if we help shall they be saved.”

“As future educators, we thought it would be important for the mural to be a teaching tool, so we designed it so that the zoo staff can use the mural as an aid to better educate children about various unique animals around the world,” senior Betsy Morningstar said.

Along with junior Meredith Stalker, Morningstar is co-president for the Art Education Club and co-director for the project.

“It is our way to put out a message about protecting the wonderful creatures in the wild,” she said.

According to Morningstar, the volunteer project has been entirely student-driven. Aside from the Art Education Club, members of the Ambassador Club and the Art Department have lent their help.

The primary artists include seniors Morningstar, Diana Bockhahn, Kristina Dahlgren, Darlene Fahmey, Jeremy Weber, juniors Stalker and Samantha Williams and freshman Carli Hatfield.

“I think that it is important for the people at Mercyhurst to look at our project and see how we as students can make a difference in our community, and our world,” Morningstar said. “Our project may seem insignificant to some, but I believe that by teaching children to appreciate and respect animals, nature and art now, our planet will benefit in the future.”

The Art Education Club plans to complete the mural at the zoo by the end of March. Until then, student artists will continue to volunteer their free time to make a difference.