By Michelle Curley
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden found the ideal person to transform the 175-foot-long concrete wall on its newly-constructed elephant barn right across the street.
The barn that faces Forest Ave. was completed, the big gray blank concrete canvas begged for beautification,” said Cincinnati Zoo’s vice president of facilities and sustainability Mark Fisher. “We have buildings here that are more than 100 years old and expect this building to be standing longer than that, so it seemed important to make it special.”
The Zoo wanted something bright and eye-catching that would appeal to its neighbors. Serendipitously, bright and eye-catching murals by local artist Cedric Michael Cox popped up on the White Oak Townhomes, located within view of the elephant barn, right about the time that Zoo leadership was considering this beautification project.
“The timing was incredible. We looked at some of Cedric’s other murals and set up a meeting with him right away,” said Fisher. “There were a lot of things to work out. We knew that Cedric had the talent to create a design that we would like, which he did, but he would also have to work within a tight timeframe. Most importantly, we wanted to work with someone who would include our neighbors in the design process.”
Within a week of this first meeting, Cox took a few of his elephant-themed sketches to Rockdale Academy and worked with the art teacher there to give students the opportunity to get creative with colors. He brought the student-colored sketches back to us for the second meeting and said that community members would be able to paint parts of the mural
“It was a no-brainer to include our community members who live, work, and play in Avondale with painting the mural. They are the ones who will see this beautiful mural every day, so we wanted to invite them to be a part of its creation. We love that our neighborhood kids can proudly say, “I did that,” said Cincinnati Zoo director of community partnerships in conservation Mollie O’Neil.
In addition to getting neighborhood kids and young adults from Groundwork Ohio River Valley involved in the design process, Cox will also invite them to paint portions of the mural. Members of the Zoo’s elephant team, and other staff members, will also get to make their marks.
“It is an honor to be invited to work with the world-renowned Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. In addition to being one of the leading attractions in our city, I love the fact that they also have a strong connection to our surrounding neighborhood of Avondale. Via my history with Avondale through several art projects, this New Cincinnati Zoo Mural is the perfect partnership for a neighborhood we both hold dear,” said Cox.
Production is expected to take a couple of months. The Zoo will share painting progress on its social channels.
The new barn is part of Elephant Trek, a five-acre habitat that will be home to Asian elephants, clawed otters, siamangs, and more ≥ It is on track to open next summer.
According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), there are only 40,000 Asian elephants in the wild today. They are an endangered species, and Cincinnati Zoo is committed to caring for them locally and globally. It participates in multiple conservation efforts to support the survival of this species in its native habitat.