The call is out for artists to create a menagerie of animal sculptures along Cameron Park Drive.

Creative Waco this week published a request for proposals for the “Sculpture Zoo” on the road leading from downtown to Cameron Park Zoo, funded through a $150,000 pledge from an anonymous local donor. The deadline for proposals is Dec. 1, with winners to be confirmed in March.

Creative Waco executive director Fiona Bond said she hopes to get a mixture of applicants from the Waco area and nationwide.

“This is already helping put Waco on the map as a place that cares about great art,” Bond said.

The project seeks to create up to five sculptures that could be realistic or abstract but “recognizable” as animals, according to the document. The animals should be made of durable materials that can withstand climbing and touching.

Bond said the longhorn cattle drive created by the Suspension Bridge as part of the Branding the Brazos projects are a good example of how public art can engage both children and adults, even those who don’t usually get to experience art.

“Great public art turns ‘pass-through’ places into ‘go-to’ places,” she said. “It stops us in our tracks and invites us to be curious — to think, laugh, play, interact or explore.”

The donor made the same point in a statement Bond passed on: “The existing sculptures by the Brazos create a sense of personality, history and pride for our city. I hope these animal sculptures will be a great addition as people drive, bike or walk along the trails toward Cameron Park, prompting them to realize that a world-class zoo is right there.”

Jim Fleshman, director of the Cameron Park Zoo, said the animals could help draw more attention and visitors to the zoo, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary next year.

He said the sculpture will spruce up the Pecan Bottoms area of Cameron Park.

“I think any time you add another dimension of art, it’s going to make our parks look a lot nicer and make them more inviting for guests,” Fleshman said.

The zoo itself has invested in animal sculptures of beavers, otters, cranes, an orangutan, a Komodo dragon and a giraffe, all of which have been popular with visitors, Fleshman said.

“It’s fantastic,” he said. “It really immerses families in the experience. We always put them in the shade so kids can play on them. It really exposes children to a different kind of art.”

Submissions for the Sculpture Zoo will be assessed by panels consisting of experts in art, design and engineering. Creative Waco, which is the city’s designated arts funding organization, will participate in the selection alongside city and zoo officials. Finalists will be announced in January, and the winner will be submitted to the city parks board Feb. 20 and to the Waco City Council on March 1.

The sculptures are to be installed and dedicated next fall.

Bond said teams and individuals can apply for the competition, and student submissions are welcome.

“We don’t expect submissions to necessarily be from people who already have a long track record,” she said. “We want this to be an early career opportunity.”

Artists who aren’t chosen will get feedback that could help them with future submissions, Bond said.

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