October 26, 2016

Painting by elephants part of Timeless Toys exhibit at Whaling Museum

Buttonwood Park Zoo donates painting by Asian elephants: On view beginning October 25, 2016

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — The star attraction in a new exhibit at the New Bedford Whaling Museum is an abstract painting by two of New Bedford’s most beloved residents: Asian elephants Ruth and Emily from the Buttonwood Park Zoo. The 24” x 24” painting in bold primary colors is part of Timeless Toys, a special exhibition for children featuring antique and vintage toys, Punch and Judy puppets, books, comic books, games, and circus memorabilia.

Ruth and Emily’s colorful painting is a good fit for the exhibition, according to Curator of Exhibitions and Collections, Christina Connett, Ph.D. “We wanted to design an exhibit that children of all ages would enjoy as they make their way to the Casa dos Botes Discovery Center, our new family interactive zone. We had heard of the elephants’ work and thought it would be great fun to include, so we approached the Buttonwood Park Zoo. They were gracious enough to arrange a specially commissioned painting to be donated to the Museum.” Ruth and Emily’s painting will be on display beginning October 25, 2016.

“The fact that elephants can paint often surprises people,” commented Carrie Hawthorne, Curator of Education at Buttonwood Park Zoo. “Over the years, the keepers noticed that Emily and Ruth would occasionally pickup sticks or rocks and draw in the sand or on the wall of their barn. Giving them a brush, paint and canvas was a way to harness their creativity and provide a great opportunity for the keepers to interact with the elephants and provide both them with physical and mental stimulation. What the keepers didn’t bargain on was how creative the elephants would be! Each elephant has a particular style. Ruth tends toward broad expansive strokes, while Emily exhibits a finer more precise style. Each painting is one of a kind making them priceless!”

Connett said that the objects on display were selected with children in mind, “but so far, adults stop as often as kids do to comment on the items in the cases. We keep hearing, ‘I used to have one of those!’”

The Museum plans to keep Timeless Toys fresh for visitors by rotating objects on display every few months, drawing on the Museum/Old Dartmouth Historical Society’s extensive collection of toys, games, books, comic books and childhood memorabilia.

The Buttonwood Park Zoo is the 12th oldest zoo in the country and one of only 231 Association of Zoo and Aquarium accredited facilities in North America. Buttonwood is home to many animal species including two beloved Asian elephants - Ruth and Emily. Emily is currently 52 years old, and arrived in New Bedford in 1968 at the age of four. Ruth is currently 58 years old and was brought to the Zoo in 1986 after being confiscated from a private owner who left her abandoned on the side of the road in a trailer.

Contact: Gayle Hargreaves
Director of Marketing
New Bedford Whaling Museum
508-997-0046 Ext. 129 (office)


About the New Bedford Whaling Museum

The New Bedford Whaling Museum is the world's most comprehensive museum devoted to the global story of human interaction with whales through time, and the history and culture of the South Coast region. The cornerstone of New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, the Museum is located at 18 Johnny Cake Hill in the heart of the city's historic downtown. Museum hours April through December: Daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Museum is open until 8 p.m. every second Thursday of the month. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.  Admission is: Free for Museum members and children aged three and under; adults $16, seniors (65+) $14, students (19+) $9, child and youth $6. For more information, visit www.whalingmuseum.org. Programming and schedules are subject to change. Please check the website for the most up-to-date information.


Click on images to view and download.

TOP: Buttonwood Park Zoo elephants Ruth and Emily co-created this painting for the Whaling Museum. Photo courtesy Buttonwood Park Zoo.

BOTTOM: Director of Collections Jordan Berson , Curator of Exhibitions and Collections Christina Connett and elephants Emily (L) and Ruth(R), with a painting created by the elephants. The Buttonwood Park Zoo has donated the painting to the Whaling Museum for its exhibit Timeless Toys. Photo courtesy New Bedford Whaling Museum.