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Junk Re-Imagined At The Philadelphia Zoo
by Carasue Moody

It is all happening at the zoo. Lions, tigers and bears, oh my. This past weekend, I took my grandchildren to the Philadelphia Zoo to see the animal exhibits. They loved seeing all the animals especially the snakes – Ugh. But there to our surprise was a spectacular display of featured art made out of trash – recycled material.

This led us into a deep discussion of what happens to all the recycled materials such as bumpers from cars or trucks, cardboard even chewing gum. Remember when car bumpers were made of steel. When you had an accident you would take to the car to the body shop and they would simply pound out the dents. Of course, that is no longer the case with the plastics they use now. So what happens to the damaged bumpers, they are simply replaced and the damaged ones are sent to the trash.

An organization out of San Francisco, FLUX Foundation has decided to change all that and they have brought their sculptures to the Philadelphia Zoo for display.

The Flux Foundation cut up bumpers to make leaves for the stems of their massive sculpture highlighting flowers and butterflies called “Bloom”, which now welcomes visitors right past the entrance to the zoo. It is part of the “Second Nature: Junk Rethunk” and art exhibit that spreads throughout the grounds.

It took 12 different artists to create the sculptures at the zoo. A group from Milan, Italy, Cracking Art Group, created a giant yellow bird, colorful rabbits, frogs, snails, meerkats and bears all made from recycled plastic.

Artist Aurora Robinson created an abstract root system from more than 3000 plastic bottles that hangs overhead when entering the McNeil Avain Center. Underneath the roots is a full size crocodile made out of chewing gum by Italian artist Maurizio Savini.

There are two polar bear cubs, each weighing more than 300 pounds, that James Corbett of Australia created by using nothing but old spark plugs. Philadelphia’s Leo Sewell made a rhino out of 250 serving trays and other pieces of dinnerware collected from curbs, junk sales and scrap piles.

Sitting right near the primates is a 9 foot tall gorilla made completely out of recycled cardboard by Montreal native Lawrence Vallieres. Just down from the carboard gorilla stands the “Blue Gorilla” by Don Kennell. The 13 foot tall structure is made out of recycled car doors. The gorilla has one hand on a knee and the other holding up an old taxicab door.

Junk Rethunk is a way of having people think about out natural resources,” said Cindy Adams Dunn, acting secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “ Not only is the re-use of junk the obvious thing of reducing litter, but it prevents the need in the future of additional quarries. It prevents the need for additional landfills. It does so many things for the environment and, by taking that first step, youth and adults open their eyes to their relationship with nature.