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Urban Wildlife: Learning to Co-Exist   •   various locations
Deadline:  June 1, 2018
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We invite artists to collaborate with scientists to create art for an exhibit that explores the lives of wild animals in urban areas and the human responses to this shared territory. Our goal is to encourage the viewing public to take an active role in healthy co-existence with urban animals.



We define “urban wildlife” for this exhibit as any species of animal that is native or introduced, but not domesticated or feral, living freely in close proximity to people (villages, towns, cities) anywhere in the world. The animals could include invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Expansion of villages, towns, and cities creates new homes for some animals, even as it displaces others. The results are often problematic. Our scientific understanding of the actions we need to take in order to live in balance with urban wildlife is an important part of the solution. Science (urban ecology) can provide the guidelines, but we need motivation to follow them. There is an equally important need to help more people understand that humans and animals are interdependent, and that our continued success depends on a diverse and healthy animal kingdom.


Submitted artwork should reflect the artist’s effort to explore, through a combination of independent research and collaboration with scientific experts, the basic biology of their selected animal or animals, its urban ecology, and the ways it interacts with humans. Evidence of this process of scientific exploration is one of the selection criteria. Check out our Urban Wildlife Google Drive folder for ideas. Scientific advisors will be available to facilitate collaboration. Artists are expected to share their creative process in the form of an artist statement to be displayed with the work, as well as photo essay or video documentation. Assistance for these elements will be available.


Artists planning to submit work for the exhibit are encouraged to notify the submissions coordinator Dr. Lucy Spelman by email at with 1) the name of the animal(s) they are studying; 2) the location of the urban environment; and, 3) either the names of their collaborating scientist(s) or a request for help finding a collaborator or for research articles. One of our scientific advisors will respond with species-specific information, such as scientific articles, names and web addresses of conservation and wildlife management organizations with programs that focus on that species, and contact details for scientists and other experts who may be available for a call or meeting. A partial list of urban wildlife species in North America includes bats, bees, coyotes, deer, elk, foxes, moose, peregrine falcons, raccoons, and red-tailed hawks. In other parts of the world, the choices will differ. Elephants are considered urban in many parts of Africa and Asia, for example. The term “urban wildlife” is a paradoxical one in many ways; exploring it may yield more questions than answers.


The artwork could consider the following themes: Time—how the urban environment changes as species leave an area, or return to it and reconstruct their environments; Space—how to define an urban ecosystem which can be as tiny as a puddle or as large as Los Angeles; Displacement—how people and urban wild animals displace each other depending on the circumstance; Visibility/Invisibility—how many urban animals are rarely seen or heard and how those we do see are moving or feeding; Rhythms—when and where urban animals breed, give birth, sleep, or die in the city; Health—how pollution (noise, light, soil, water, air) negatively affects humans and wild animals living in urban areas.


The exhibit premieres at the Rhode Island School of Design ISB Gallery from July 25 through August 22, 2018 and then moves to ArtProv Gallery from October 3 through November 9, 2018. From there, it will travel to other venues to be determined.

The RISD ISB Gallery is located at 55 Canal Walk in downtown Providence and receives hundreds of visitors a month during the summer. Special multimedia events organized during the four-week run of the exhibition will feature readings, writings, dance, music, and live animal demonstrations, as well as kid-friendly animal encounters. ArtProv Gallery, located in the Jewelry District’s historic Doran Building at 150 Chestnut Street in Providence is a contemporary art gallery featuring works that focus on color, texture, and expression.