LINCOLN PARK — Lincoln Park Zoo unveiled four new chimpanzee sculptures Monday based on the work of student artists at Chicago Public Schools in Little Village.
The project was part on an ongoing program between the zoo, CPS and the Marshall Square area in the northeast part of Little Village, but it was the brainchild of Omar Magana, executive director of OPEN Center for the Arts.
According to Magana, 241 students from three Little Village schools — Spry, Hammond and Telpochalli — came to the zoo in March to study the chimps at the Center for African Apes. They then executed artworks that Magana and other zoo judges winnowed down to 18 finalists and then four winners whose works were converted into sculptures by Magana using recycled materials.
The four victors were Jocelyn Argueta from Telpochalli Elementary School, 2832 W. 24th Blvd., and Jimena Hernandez, Nahi Morales and Diana Ruiz from Spry Community School, 2400 S. Marshall Blvd., and they were at the zoo for Monday's unveiling along with the other students who took part.
Student artists Diana Ruiz, Jocelyn Argueta, Jimena Hernandez and Nahi Morales after unveiling the chimp sculptures based on their work at Lincoln Park Zoo. (DNAinfo/Ted Cox)
"Learning about chimpanzees up close at Lincoln Park Zoo taught these students more than a textbook ever could," Magana said. "As an artist, it was exciting to bring the limitless creativity of children to life. As a wildlife advocate, it was rewarding to hear the children share what they learned about chimpanzees with their families and friends."
The zoo said it was a two-way street. Steve Ross, director of the zoo's Lester Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, called it an attempt to "merge the powers of both art and science" to dramatize the plight of an endangered species "under an immense amount pressure" in the Republic of Congo.
The zoo's Stephanie Bohr called the work "wildlife as seen through the eyes of children."
The four metallic sculptures were installed outside the zoo's Endangered Species Carousel, between the Lion House and the Monkey House near the East Gate. They'll remain there until being transferred to Marshall Boulevard in Little Village next year, when other students from the neighborhood will be working on the next phase of the ongoing art project with the zoo.