Local art gallery hosts ‘Paints and Paws’ with paintings from animals at Potter Park Zoo

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by Erin Clifford
Lansing Star staff writer

Included in the showcase were prints created by the zoo's brand new tiger cubs. "We just kind of dunked them in the paint," said the feline and primate zookeeper, Jackie Broder.

Colorful pawprints stepped across the canvas in distinct patterns, while the slinking trail of a snake was highlighted with red and green. Animals in Potter Park Zoo have been painting for years, and for the first time these paintings are displayed for the public to admire and purchase until Nov. 20 at the Artisan’s Circle in Williamston.

Along with the artwork, other zoo residents visited the store with the assistance of a few docents. The middle room in the store hosted a variety of animals; including a milk snake, southern three-banded armadillo, a ferret and a tenrec.

Jason Maise spouts out facts about the southern three-banded armadillo, Jessie Trierweiler stands back with a milk snake.

Jackie Broder, the feline and primate zookeeper at Potter Park, taught the snow leopards, lions, tigers, and mongoose lemurs how to paint for behavior training. Originally from Buffalo, NY, Broder moved to Lansing 11 years ago to work at the zoo.

“They work in exchange for food,” Broder said. “Over the course of many training sessions we teach them to do some interesting behaviors, one of which is painting.” Behavior training is also useful for when animals need vet procedures or to take an ultrasound, and some animals were tougher than others.

“The lion was harder to train,” Broder said. “He’s really highly aggressive and excitable. It would take a long time to teach him to not eat the paper and the thing with the paint on it.”

The zoo’s education curator Dennis Laidler said this is not the first time the animals have done art. “We would sell a few paintings in the gift shop, sort of haphazardly,” Laidler said, “but it’s the first time we’ve had a gallery showing.”

The Artisan’s Circle Gallery and Gifts in Williamston is proudly hosting this exhibit, and the artists there spent a lot of time preparing to accommodate the paintings.

Within this artist co-operative, resident Deirdre Hunt was excited for this special display in the store. As a personal friend of Broder’s and fellow animal lover, Artisan’s Circle approached the zoo about hosting the artwork. “I think it’s really cool,” Hunt said. “They’re wonderful.”

The front room of the store displays Hunt’s pottery, decorative gourds, paintings and more from her and the rest of the artists.

Original paintings as well as prints are available for purchase. Proceeds go toward the new animal hospital at the zoo.

Paints and Paws will be hosted by the Artisan’s Circle until Nov. 20. The event

Follow the signs!

is free to the public and included arts and crafts for families to enjoy. On Nov. 18 the Artisan’s Circle is putting on a concert of local folk artists to close out the end of the gallery.

The Artisan’s Circle
138  W. Grand River
Williamston, MI  48895

Mondays – Closed
Tues. – Sat. – 11 am – 6pm
Sundays – 12 am – 4 pm

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