In a win-win situation, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s Gift Shop and Creative Foundations have partnered on a product that supports both of the local nonprofits and gives name recognition to area artists with developmental disabilities.
Artists from Creative Foundations is providing the zoo with artwork, and the zoo is selling reproductions of the artwork in the form of notecards and larger prints.
Creative Foundations uses art and creativity to provide support, community integration, and independence to adults with developmental disabilities. All of the artwork on the notecards and larger prints was designed and created by local artists independently or in a collaborative group effort.
Deidre Harris, Columbus Zoo Gift Shop spokesperson, said all the proceeds from the cards go back into the feeding and care of the animals at the zoo.
“It’s also always good to introduce people to different animals in different ways,” she said. “Artwork is typically one of those things that people don’t think about buying when they come to the zoo, but once they see it — see how beautiful it is — they definitely pick it up.”
The artists not only draw and paint the animals seen in the zoo – lions, tigers, polar bears, penguins, orangutans and giraffes, to mention a few – but they research each one as well.
Harris said she orders cards from Creative Foundations two to three times a year, and the bigger prints that can be hung on a wall, sell really well.
“People will send cards here and there, but a lot of people just want something to hang up on their walls,” she said. “The prints are not too big and they’re not too small.”
Harris said each year, a certain animal at the zoo becomes very popular much like the polar bears have been. As of late, she said with the birth of the Mexican wolves, the babies have become a bestseller.
“Our number one animal we’re selling right now are the sloths,” she said. “Llamas are very popular this year as well. I don’t know what it is, but sloths and llamas are bigsellers.”
However, Harris said the gift shop purchased 144 plush Tasmanian devils that quickly sold out.
“We sold out of them within three weeks,” she said. “They went like hotcakes.”
Harris said the zoo gift shop started working with Creative Foundations about three years ago.
“Every year we’re doing it better and better,” she said.
Michael Hite, Creative Foundations director of marketing, is the one behind the idea of selling the artwork as notecards at the zoo gift shop. He said it started with a wild art exhibit and grew into notecards and prints at the zoo.
Hite said the first year, the notecards from Creative Foundations were intermixed with other cards from different vendors.
“We lost the story behind them, but this year (the gift shop) decided to allow me to bring in my card rack, for my cards,” he said.
Hite said that the cards didn’t sell very fast at first, but with some tweaking, sales have picked up. He said the artists’ work is purchased by Creative Foundations, so the organization owns the rights to it, and the artwork is reproduced into notecards and large prints.
“Some of the artists have moved on, but we own the art and the sell of the cards to help fund the work at Creative Foundations,” he said. “On the back, each card has the biography of the artist, and the notecards have been a great seller for us.”
Hite said that one of the artists, who has no arms, paints with his mouth.
“He does great work,” Hite said.
Paul Day, one of the foundation’s artists, said if the zoo provided him with a photo of the Mexican wolf cubs with their mother, he would do a painting for the cards. He said he did a rendition of a white Siberian tiger that is displayed on one of the cards.
Creative Foundations provides integrated support services to individuals with developmental disabilities in Champaign, Delaware, Franklin, Knox and Union counties.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.