Animal Family
Edmonton Valley Zoo

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There’s nothing like a child’s excitement of seeing her favourite animal for the first time, when the idea of a fluffy round object becomes a full size, living and breathing sheep in front of her eyes. Animal Family is a colourful and playful public art wall sculpture that invites discovery and interaction while providing a prelude for children’s and adults’ visit as guests into the animals’ home.

Located within the Urban Farm in the On Zone of Nature’s Wild Backyard, Animal Family is situated on the west facing wall of the new Urban Barn. The artwork is comprised of thirteen wall panels featuring a series of colourful silhouettes of the farm animals found within the Urban Barn. Selected sheets feature movable panels that act like a child’s flipbook, allowing participants to animate and engage with the piece. The bright colours of the panels draw the attention of visitors and provide a recognizable point of orientation for the Urban Barn.

Animal Family’s composition references the origins of the Edmonton Valley Zoo, drawing on the much loved Storyland Zoo for inspiration. The storybook form of the piece sustains a continuity that celebrates and honours the foundational values of the Zoo and helps carry these aspirations through the ambitious contemporary development of Nature’s Wild Backyard.

The variety of profiles and colours of the Animal Family panels can be read as a story, one that expresses both the diversity of the different shapes and sizes of the animals and emphasizes the unity of their shared habitat and environment. How does a chicken play with a pig? How does a goat say good morning to a cow? Tails flick, heads dip, chicks appear and disappear as the poses and positions come to life through the flipping of the movable panels, an action that can be carried out by children or assisted by adults, as when reading a storybook together at home.

Seeing animals for the first time can be a very exciting and sometimes overwhelming experience for younger children. Animal Family serves as an introduction to this scaled up reality of the animals in their barn home. The full size animal silhouettes provide a transition from the pages of a child’s storybook to the reality of the animals at the Urban Barn, inviting participants to get closer and consider themselves within the context of the animals’ lives. The work is designed to be approachable and to encourage the idea of an animal family that shares the habitat of the domestic farm environment. Through the invitation of playful participation, the piece also offers a way to engage a broad audience of young children through to elderly adults at the intersection of art, ecology and conservation within Nature’s Wild Backyard.

Looking back to the origins of the Storyland Zoo while gazing ahead into the hopeful future embodied by the progressive ideas of Nature’s Wild Backyard, Animal Family seeks to complement the experience of the On Zone area. Animal Family is a colourful public art work that celebrates diversity, invites approachability, and provides an entry into the lives of the farm animals within the Urban Barn.

Edmonton Arts Council
Marc Boutin Architectural Collaborative
Heavy Industries