Can animals be artistic? Some experts think so. Painting and music are part of efforts to keep animals happy at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C.
A sloth bear called Francois is one of the National Zoo’s resident artists. He began his artistic career two years ago. Francois has a very unusual way to paint – a technique, some would say. He uses his breath to paint.
His zookeeper, Stacey Tabellario, says that although the technique may look strange, it is actually a very natural behavior for sloth bears.
“They have got big, big lungs, and they can suck things up and then in the same breath they can exhale a huge amount of air. We stuff up one of those tubes full of paint and ask them to exhale through it. And that expels all of the paint onto the canvas,making these really cool paintings.”
Animal artists come in all shapes and sizes at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. They use many kinds of techniques to create their works of art. Many use their paws or claws – much like a human painter would use his or her hands. Apes use paintbrushes.
Music is another part of the arts enrichment program. Ms. Tabellario heads the zoo’s Enrichment and Training Committee. Trainers have a lot of tools, from tablet computers to small playthings.
The one-of-a-kind works of art created by the animals are popular with zoo visitors. Many are sold at the zoo’s fundraising events.