River Otters’ Paintings Sell at Minnesota Aquarium

By Suzan Clarke

Oct 9, 2012 8:00am
ht anang otter painting wy 121008 wblog River Otters Paintings Sell at Minnesota Aquarium

Bob King/Duluth News Tribune

Even if you’re not a student of fine art, you’ve heard of the masters: Picasso. Rembrandt. Dali. Van Gogh.

But have you heard of Anang and Zoosh? Not yet, but you will, because these two river otters’ paintings are making waves at the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth, Minn.

The facility’s resident otters have been painting for about a year, Tara Lieberg, the aquarium’s otter keeper, told ABC News Monday.

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Anang, the 15-year-old female, is better at it than her male counterpart, 12-year-old Zoosh.

“She, for whatever reason, has a little artistic ability, whether she wants to or not. She makes really great paintings. And the male just makes paw prints,” Lieberg said.

Lieberg introduced the otters to blobs of paint – non-toxic and washable — on paper during private feeding time to introduce some diversity to their environment.

She placed the paper – with dabs of paint already added – in front of the otters. They could either choose to bypass the papers or walk over them on their way to get to the food Lieberg was holding.

At first, they didn’t appear to enjoy the sensation of the paint, but now they do, she added.

“I think they know they’re doing something different,” she said.

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The animals’ creative paw prints, tail swipes and fur impressions have become popular souvenirs in the aquarium’s gift shop.

Larger paintings, measuring 8 x 10 inches, go for $35 to $45, all the way down to the smallest at $5, Lieberg said.  The paintings are all originals and are all framed.

Visitors appreciate them because they allow them to take a piece of the museum home with them, she added.

“If I hand them a carrot and they take their carrot over when they’re making their painting sometimes there’ll be carrot bits on there. People think that’s great,” Lieberg said.

She pointed out that the paint was non-toxic and washable.

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The otters are the only animals at the aquarium that are involved in painting, but that could change. In addition to the two otters, the aquarium currently is home to many fish, turtles, birds and snakes.

“Snakes would make some awesome paintings, actually,” Lieberg said.

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