Austin Zoo auctions off local art on Instagram to raise funds for animals, artists

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The local art of zoo animals is on the auction block, available to the highest bidder.

Four Austin-based artists created pieces of art inspired by animals at the Austin Zoo, the organization said on its website. Each is up for bid as part of the zoo’s first-ever Instagram auction, which started last week.

Local artist Rey Mar was behind the first featured piece — a three-foot by four-foot painting of Austin Zoo’s white tiger, Zulema.

A painting of Austin Zoo’s white tiger, Zulema (Rey Mar)

He said this about the auction on the zoo’s website:

Being able to work with and support a local business like the Austin Zoo whose mission is to assist animals in need of rescue, rehabilitation and give education to everyone who visits was such a cool experience. The feeling I got visiting the zoo always brings back the best childhood memories of when I would go on school field trips to different zoos around the world. It definitely brought me so much joy being able to see all the animals safe and being taken care of by a great group of people. Creating a painting of Zulema and being able to help raise money for the zoo was just another humble experience I could ask for as an artist and I hope everyone enjoys and loves the painting as much as I do.”

Rey Mar

Bidding for his piece ended 6 p.m. Jan. 14, and it raised more than $300.

Another piece waiting for its turn on the auction block is a wood panel spray painting of a tiger’s eye by artist Heath Speakman, otherwise known as “Mouf.” He chose a tiger because it’s the most impressive animal to him.

“Growing up, going to the zoos and places to see animals, always wanted to see the tigers and, at a young age, was drawn to the artistic qualities of the tiger, as well — from the face to the stripes to the coloration,” Speakman said.

He got involved in the effort as a nod of nostalgia to his days visiting the Austin Zoo. He now brings his kids to enjoy the experience.

“These animals are given the chance to survive after circumstances they had nothing to do with and these guys are giving them a good life,” he said. “Anything we could do as a group of artists, personal thing to me, would love to help out any way we can.”

Brooke Sipos, who is curating the campaign with the local creative group SprATX, said their love for animals spurred the collaboration. The auction benefits both the artists and the animals. Proceeds are split equally, 50/50.

“I think the 50/50 split is amazing,” Speakman said. “We put in our time upfront and our talents to come out and do this… but it also helps us pay the bills, as well.”

Speakman has created art in Austin for more than eight years. From his perspective, he saw a slow-down from other local artists when the pandemic began, but coming into this year he has seen a spike in projects, which is encouraging. He credits the bond between artists in the area as a big factor.

“Here in Austin it seems like every artist knows each other, every artist works with each other and we all pass, back and forth, information about different gatherings and events. We just kind of support each other on a regular basis.”

“Art brings so much to the world in general and especially in these times, you know, I think it’s very important to help support our artists. I mean, it’s hard out there right now,” Sipos said.

Both agree the best way to help out local artists is to continue creating avenues for art to be seen.

Auction rules

Each auction will take place on Austin Zoo’s Instagram page.

“The social media aspect of it has been a game-changer,” Speakman said.

Individuals can and must submit their bids in the comment sections of each post. Every auction will have a specific start and end date. All bidding sessions run one week and begin at $100. Subsequent bids must be made in $20 increments.

(Austin Zoo)

An Austin Zoo staff member will notify winners, who will then need to bring proof of purchase to secure their piece of art. The zoo accepts PayPal or credit cards (Visa, Master Card, and Discover).

You can also give direct monetary donations to the Austin Zoo on its website, as well as much-needed items on its wishlist.

Although the auction is about raising money, Speakman believes it’s also a mutual trade.

“The artists also have followers and people that may not have known about there’s a zoo right here that we can come see and check out,” Speakman said.

While the City of Austin is under Stage 5 COVID-19 guidelines, the outdoor gathering ban does not apply to zoos, aquariums or similar facilities. However, outdoor occupancy is limited to 75%. The Austin Zoo is open to the public with some on-site changes implemented last year. Masks are required. You can find more visitor guidelines by scrolling down on the website’s main page.

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