The zoo has kept painter and artist David Michener very busy over the last few years. From his naturalistic vistas in select animal exhibits to the massive animal mural that over looks the extended parking lot, David has been positively transforming Elmwood Park Zoo, one brush stroke at a time.

“I always had it in me,” David says when describing his artistic ability. He recalls the lessons his grandmother, herself an established artist, would give him as a young boy. He put his developing talent to use early on, selling sketches of Batman for a penny each to his fellow schoolmates at lunch.   

David describes the creative ideas he often receives as “flashes” in his head. He says he was overjoyed to be able to apply his creativity to his work at the zoo, which began four years ago with a mural he painted for the interior of the squirrel monkey exhibit. 

Since then, David has painted murals for the other primate exhibits, as well as the gorgeous sunset that adorns the walls of the African straw-colored fruit bat enclosure. He also is responsible for the cougar exhibit and the vibrant artwork inside the zoo’s administrative conference room. 

David Michener in action

He admits that his most challenging work to this point has been the rock walls in the red panda enclosure. David mixed over one ton of concrete and sand and then painstakingly laid it over wire mesh to create the facade that resembles the rocky Himalayan landscape of the panda’s natural habitat.

We couldn’t help but ask what he’s got in mind for the zoo next. “I’m very excited for the future,” is all he’ll say. As the zoo continues to grow and develop, you can expect to see more of David Michener’s art beautifying spaces and adding dimension to exhibits. 

Written by Shaun Rogers