Original Document
Original Document
"Pittsburgh WPA Artists Paint Murals in Zoo," 1941.

WPA artists have made the snakes and other reptiles, at the Highland Park Zoo
in Pittsburgh feel at home in captivity.

With 13 of the 20 murals in the reptile cages already completed by the Pittsburgh artists of the WPA Art Program, the 25,000 thousand visitors who crowd the zoo on a good Sunday can see the snakes as they are at home on the range, in the jungle, mountain, desert, or marsh.

The new scenery is fooling the reptiles too. Reports straight from the zoo tell of snakes standing upright on their tails to reach a tree painted on the wall; of a Mexican toad wearing itself thin trying to climb a painted root, and of a small animal who tried to eat the bark of a painted tree only to get a mouthful of varnish.

The inmates are so pleased, it is assumed, that the monkeys, giraffe, and bird houses at the zoo will be likewise transformed to make the residents think they are back on the range. And there's some talk of doing the "Big Cat" cages - making them look like and African lion's veldt home.

The art work has attracted thousands of visitors. And as for the artists - the animals are removed to other cages before they work.

John W. Gore, Negro artist, is in charge of the work, and is assisted by William Molneer and Robert Stewart. Gore designs the sketches, which are approved by E.J. House, President of the Pittsburgh Zoological Society, the sponsor, and Ralph Griswold, Director of the Pittsburgh parks. Gore then lays out the work, which is based on research of the various plant life which surrounded the various animals in their native haunts.

Two diamond-back rattlers, for example, now live in a desert surrounded by sand and cactus. Alligators now live in a synthetic Everglades, and the water snakes slither about in marshes you'd swear were from Virginia, Kentucky, or North Carolina.

The mural decorations mark the first effort aside from the acquisition of new animals, to add interest to the zoo.

Credit: WPA Review (May 1941).
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