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The latest creation in Paignton Zoo’s Great Gorilla Project is a real team effort. Artist Penny Robson, a tutor for South Devon College’s Adult & Community Learning Department, invited her students to help her paint a life-size gorilla. “There’s a list of about thirty people who want to help, but I can only have two or three at a time!” The model gorilla, called Flagged, is decorated with the flags of all the nations that are home to wild gorillas. Sponsored by Paignton BID, the gorilla is part of the project celebrating the 90th birthday of Paignton Zoo. Life-size model gorillas are being sponsored by businesses and community groups, painted in original designs by specially-commissioned artists and displayed in public, creating a unique art trail around Torbay and Exeter. Penny: “As a child I loved the brightly-patterned paper flags that I used to decorate sand castles on the beach. From this memory came the idea of using flags for my gorilla design.” The flags represent the ten African nations in which gorillas are found: Angola, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, Gabon, Uganda, Rwanda and Nigeria. Matthew Dart, the Paignton BID Manager, said: “The Paignton BID steering group saw an opportunity with such a bright and colourful gorilla to send out a powerful message on how the population of these magnificent animals is decreasing. “Penny is also local and that was a winning factor. I went to see the gorilla being painted and Penny has captured the eyes so well they follow you around! I look forward to seeing him completed and on display in Paignton for everyone to enjoy.” Penny added: “Painting it has really given me a sense of how large and powerful these animals are!” She has always enjoyed painting animals and plants and has been involved with wildlife themed public art events locally. In 1996 she was awarded an RHS silver medal. Chris Woodhouse, from South Devon College, added: “This has been a real community project - students attending the art courses she teaches for South Devon College’s Adult & Community Learning Department have contributed. “As a tutor Penny has encouraged hundreds of students in their artistic endeavours. The invitation to her learners to work with her on the gorilla is typical of her generous spirit and dedication to art. As an artist she is motivated by the natural world and a strong sense of community - this project brings the two together.” For further information go to: www.greatgorillas.org.uk. South Devon College Adult & Community Learning Department, 01803 540770.
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