Sharon Loper Los Angeles Zoo

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GLAZANEWS Feature Story
By Cynthia Richardson

Traditionally, the role of the zoo has been to present live, exotic animals to the public. However, a zoo visit should be a completely satisfying experience combining recreation, education, and beautiful surroundings. The original European zoos were called zoological gardens because of their lush grounds, trees, flowers and shrubs. Many zoos also incorporated animal sculptures. These sculptures added an artistic element to the zoo experience.

The Los Angeles Zoo is following this European tradition. We have slowly begun acquiring animal sculptures, including a piece entitled Mother and Child near the chimpanzee exhibit, and a koala sculpture in the Ludden Plaza of the Australia section. These pieces represent the beginning of what we hope will be a growing art collection in the Zoo.

When Sharon Loper, a GLAZE member and noted sculptor, attended the opening of the Zoo's Ahmanson Koala House, she was enthralled by the koala's grace and natural balance. She also thought, "What a perfect subject for a sculpture."

Although she has always enjoyed animals, Loper did not use them as models until she taught a child's art class for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Since then, Loper has had a gallery exhibition featuring her Animal collection and is currently working on a series of life-size cat sculptures.

Sharon Loper is very pleased that her work is displayed in the Los Angeles Zoo. "The Zoo is a perfect place for art," she says. "Galleries often are intimidating for adults and children. The Zoo's informal setting makes art much more approachable." She also feels that zoos provide an "emotional service" to their visitors. "Living in the city limits our ability to be close to nature," she explained. "The Zoo gives us an opportunity to breathe deeply in its open space."

The goal of the Los Angeles Zoo is to purvey this "emotional service" to visitors so they can enjoy the company of animals, feel refreshed by a walk through lush gardens, and appreciate nature through an artist's eyes.

© Sharon Loper 2024