Artist paints elephants to raise awareness of poaching

By Dawn Heinbach

Suzanne Fellows’s artwork Photo by Dawn Heinbach
Suzanne Fellows’s artwork
Photo by Dawn Heinbach

The art exhibit entitled “The Big Picture” by 1987 KU alumnus Suzanne Fellows is on display at Gallery 314, located at 314 West Main Street in Kutztown. Fellows’s display will be up through Oct. 15. This exhibit is part of Fellows’s year-long project, “99 Elephants a Day,” which began on Jan. 30. At the project’s completion, she will have created 36,000 elephants, the same number that are killed each year for their ivory.

Fellows has always been intrigued and charmed by elephants, and they have been the subject of many of her paintings. She began following the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust on Facebook in 2009.

DSWT is an elephant sanctuary in Nairobi, Kenya, that rescues and rehabilitates orphaned baby elephants whose mothers are victims of poaching. Fellows had been seeking ways to donate money to this cause, and was also exploring options for a year-long project. These two desires inspired “99 Elephants a Day.”

Making 99 elephants every day is an immense task. Fellows paints each piece of paper and cuts it into 2.5 by 3.5 pieces, then prints 99 elephants and stamps and numbers each one. This leaves little time for the other equally important part of the project: marketing on social media and keeping up with the blog. Fellows must also find funds to continue purchasing watercolor paper and gouache, the main materials used in the creation of the elephants.

The project has impacted people in just the way the artist had hoped.

“So many people love elephants and are aware of the significance of the possible extinction of this magnificent species,” she said. “I’ve had many conversations about elephants that have left me with goosebumps. The people of Berks County have been more than supportive, and I couldn’t be more grateful.”

With approximately four months until the project’s end, Fellows is looking for a way to reach beyond Berks County.

“It is imperative for the success of this project that this conversation goes viral,” she said. She and many others are keeping their fingers crossed, for the sake of the pachyderms.

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