RISD art exhibit showcases wildlife conservation interpretations

As someone who has the privilege to travel the world and interact with wildlife, I have first-hand knowledge of the threats faced by animals and the role that we as humans play in both their potential extinction and their long-term survival.

Villages, towns and cities encroach on formerly wild areas; misplaced love translates into the cruel capture of wild animals for the often illegal exotic pet trade; and our lust for consumer products turns elephant tusks into trinkets and tiger bones into wine.

Humanity is not just the problem. We are also the solution.

We need to capture the hearts and minds of people everywhere—especially people who may never have the chance to see endangered animals in the wild—if we are to truly create a better world for animals and people.

This is where artists can make a difference. And why we are embarking on an exciting new adventure with the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and Creature Conserve.

Our new exhibition—Wildlife trading and conservation—opens today.

It is an exciting showcase that considers the role of global wildlife trade in driving dozens of species to extinction and empowers the viewing public to take part in conservation.

The 32 participating RISD artists—established professionals, recent graduates, and current students—were asked to select from a list of the most heavily traded wildlife species and conduct their own self-directed research.

RISD event

As my collaborator in this venture Dr Lucy Spelman of RISD and Creature Conserve says: “Scientists tell us the animal kingdom cannot survive our massive presence on earth—unless we intervene. They also predict a ripple effect on human health and society.

Artists deepen our understanding of this interdependency, and help us explore how we feel about animals and our relationships with them. Together, art and science reach a wider audience with a more inclusive message.”

I felt it was vital to connect IFAW experts with artists—helping them to truly understand the issues.

READ: Moscow visual exhibit imagines world without endangered animals

As a result of these interviews and additional interactions with a wide range of people working with wildlife, including biologists, ecologists, veterinarians, park rangers, zookeepers, sanctuary managers, and policymakers, the artists have created highly personal, emotionally-charged artworks informed by the facts.

Whether it is the plight of African Grey Parrots in the pet trade; elephants and ivory trade and habitat loss; poaching of Hawksbill turtles and their eggs; the hunting of lions; or shark finning—these artists are shining a light on the threats to these species.

The pieces will make you think. They are intriguing, beautiful, disturbing, but most of all compelling. I am certain that like me, you will be moved to take action to save these incredible creatures.

I hope that you will be able to visit the exhibition but for those who cannot come in person, we will also be updating this page with images from the exhibition and I hope you will let us know your responses and reactions to it.

WHAT: "Wildlife: Trading and Conservation," co-sponsored by Creature Conserve, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)

WHEN: Show opening and reception July 14, 6:00-8:00pm with remarks by Dr. Lucy Spelman (RISD) and Azzedine Downes (IFAW)

Exhibition on view July 15 – August 6 | gallery hours: Wednesday - Saturday 12:00-5:00pm

Extended hours for WaterFire – open until 10pm on July 22 and August 6

Free and open to the public

WHERE: RISD Gallery 55 in the RISD Illustration Studies Building (ISB),

55 Canal Walk, Providence, RI


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
Country Director, United States
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Jimmiel Mandima at IFAW
Deputy Vice President of Conservation
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime