"Spotter Otter" Premiere
It’s been a secret project in the pipeline for around six months now with Midland Film And Art group (c/o The Art Yard) working in collaboration with the Education Department for Dudley Zoo & Castle (DZC).
Eight community art groups from across the Black Country combined under the leadership of MFAA(TAY) Treasurer Harry Bloomer to design and paint schemes of 3D artworks on model otters that will eventually be auctioned off by DZG to raise money for charity.
The Himalayan Short Clawed Otter is the smallest otter species world-wide and is a highly endangered species. In order to raise funds to support the Otter Charity, the Education and Community Engagement team of DZC commissioned the production of 8 model otters, each 90 cm high, to auction for charity.
On 1st August 2023 the Zoo got in touch with MFAA group Treasurer, Harry Bloomer at TAY gallery and asked if the management team would help to get the otters painted by artists in time for the half-term school holiday in February 2024. Harry arranged to meet with Jack Williams and Eve Carter of the Zoo’s education team to identify their needs, following which he called for volunteer art groups from across the Black Country to design and paint the otters, getting responses from artists from Dudley, Sandwell and Wolverhampton. On 21st September Harry sent a brief to participants asking them to complete their otter designs based loosely on the subjects of 'nature' and 'wildlife' by mid-November. The model otters were expected to arrive at the Zoo by the beginning of December.
A deadline of 4th November was given to complete the otter designs and a total of 46 designs were produced by those involved. Preferred designs were agreed on at a planning meeting by Jack, Eve and Harry.
The otters arrived in early December and were distributed to the art groups who were given a deadline of 26th January 2024 to complete painting and varnishing the models. The 8 groups were: Back Room Artists Chris Nightingale from Wolverhampton (c/o The Art Yard) Greg Broad from Smethwick (c/o The Art Yard) Halesowen Level 3 Art & Graphic Design students Happy Painters (West Smethwick Park) Learning 4 Life (Dudley Adult Learning) Terry Glazebrook (c/o Dudley Society of Artists Visual Artist Collective
Many hours of volunteer time were freely given to complete the otters on time before they were first shown to the public at a premiere held at the Zoo on 10th February 2024. Jack and Eve had arranged for visitors to the Zoo to spot the otters in the castle grounds along a new ‘Spotter Otter’ trail. The trail was opened at the premiere event by The Worshipful The Mayor of Dudley, Cllr Andrea Goddard.
Harry said, "I am extremely grateful to all of the artists that engaged with this extended art communities project. The designs produced are truly spectacular and the finished otters look fantastic. Artists involved ranged in experience from professionals to new groups of armatures. Working on 3D models to such a high standard is something that artists rarely get a opportunity to do, so the experience gained by those involved is immense."
The otters will remain on show at the Zoo during the half-term holiday after which time they will go on tour about several Black Country businesses and shopping centres. The otters will eventually be auctioned later in the year at a date to be arranged.