A host of life-size model gorillas were sponsored by businesses and community groups, painted in original designs by specially-commissioned artists and displayed in public, creating a unique art trail around Torbay and Exeter.
Great Gorillas was an amazing mix of art, education, conservation and public engagement, with fantastic opportunities for businesses, charities and local communities.
This project was based around the region’s largest and best-known zoo, Paignton Zoo Environmental Park, which is also a registered charity, but the Zoo was pleased to work with the many partners needed to make such a big idea work, including:
• Paignton Zoo Environmental Park
• Torbay Council
• Torbay Town Centres Company
• Exeter City Council
• The English Riviera Tourism Company
• Wild in Art
This major public outreach project celebrated Paignton Zoo’s 90th birthday in 2013. The Zoo was founded by eccentric millionaire Herbert Whitley and opened to the public in 1923. The aim was to raise awareness for the work of the Zoo, raise money for gorilla conservation and celebrate the Zoo’s unique place in the community.
Gorillas have been an integral part of the Zoo’s collection for many years and we wanted to raise awareness of their plight. The models provided a stunning three-dimensional canvas for artists to express their creativity. The finished works of art looked spectacular when out in our community.
The gorillas were on show at businesses, shops, offices, schools, colleges and public spaces across Torquay and Exeter.
October 2012 - Project launch
November 2012 – Call for artist submissions
January 2013 – Deadline for artist submissions
February 2013 – Artists’ public painting space opens
July 2013 – Launch of the event with the 'Great Gorillas Flotilla'
August to October 2013 – 10-week public art trail
November 2013 – Gala auction at the Palace Theatre
Gorilla models – the vital statistics
• The full size models were 120cms long, 140cms high and 60cms wide
• They weighed around 30 kilos without their concrete plinth
• They were made of fibre-glass with steel reinforcement by a specialist company based in Poland
• The smaller models were 38cm tall and 76cm long
For the technically-minded
They were manufactured using a mixture of Class II fire retardant laminating resin and chopped roving fibreglass over an initial brushed-on layer of polyester gel coat. Several layers of chopped strand matting fibreglass were hand-laid, wetted with the laminating resin to the point of full saturation.
Can they stay outside?
Yes, they were designed, decorated and varnished with this in mind. They were fixed to solid concrete bases.
The funds raised through this project are being used by Paignton Zoo to support gorilla and conservation projects and Children's Hospice South West.
Cross River gorillas
The Great Gorillas Project not only enables Paignton Zoo to continue its vital conservation and education work, it is also helping to save the Cross River gorillas from extinction. The Cross River gorillas closely resemble the lowland gorillas at Paignton Zoo.
Found along the southern section of the Nigeria-Cameroon border, fewer than 300 Cross Rivera gorillas remain in the wild. It is the most endangered African ape, ranking among the world's 25 most endangered primate species. Illegal hunting for bushmeat and habitat loss threaten the future of Cross River gorillas.
The real gorillas of Paignton Zoo
Paignton Zoo is home to five male lowland gorillas - 30 year old Pertinax, Kiondo who is 10 years old and Kivu who will be 10 in November; and N’Dowe and Matadi who are both 9. Click here for more information.
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