Art About Town: Strange Strange Sam at the Kansas City Zoo

Photo Courtesy the City of Kansas City

Thank goodness for spring! As new life emerges from an overabundance of late season snow, thoughts turn to the inspiration of nature and perhaps, poetry. One of Kansas City’s more unique public art projects found at the Zoo entry combines an awareness of nature and educational inspiration through prose.

The Kansas City Zoo entry plaza is designed as a transitional area where parents can rest and kids can play either while waiting to enter the zoo or while retrieving the car from the parking lot at the end of one’s visit. Denver artist Andy Dufford of Chevo Studios was selected from more than 60 U.S. artists to integrate artwork into the plaza in part because of his use of carved stone as an art/play element and his interest in working with the Zoo’s educational department to provide experiential artwork to help inspire learning. Working closely with Zoo staff and PGAV Architects, Dufford created Strange Strange Sam a unique and very popular creature that lives on land, in the sea and in the air. The artwork comprises carved stone, a rubberized play surface and an original poem etched onto five nearby medallions which playfully describe how this giant, imaginary climbable creature thrives on land, sea and air. As the artist described in his proposal statement:

“I was inspired by talks regarding the Zoo’s focus on education. I think it’s important to introduce a fantasy element, to get the children dreaming about what they see and also what might be. I’m inspired by sound and rhythm and thought it would be fun to introduce some rhymes to set the beat for the kids.”


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