Akron students create upcycled artwork for Akron Zoo


Students from Kenmore-Garfield High School have created a piece of art created from upcycled materials after being approached by the Akron Zoo with the idea for the project. The piece, which is an otter, was a collaboration of students grades 9th – 12th, including students from the multiple disabilities unit.

The trash was collected from the Tuscarawas River by the Akron Zoo Chapter of the American Association of Zookeepers (AAZK) and consisted of recyclables like aluminum, plastic and cardboard. Students used a variety of media to create the piece, which comprised of several phases from design to implementation of the multi-media upcycled installation piece.

“We at the Akron Zoo wanted to shed light on a conservation success story by focusing on the revival of river otters in Ohio,” said Kathleen Balogh, park services supervisor. “This collaborative effort will inspire people to reduce their use of single-use plastic.” 

“Our goal was to transform the common perspective that art has to be made from traditional materials,” said Kelley Waickman, fine arts teacher at Kenmore-Garfield High School. “We wanted to use uncommon materials to convey that art can be created from anything. It was important to us to use these materials to spread understanding of pollution’s effect on local animal habitats, while also creating something beautiful from that waste.”

The otter was chosen due to the close correlation between otters and clean water. When water becomes polluted, fish populations decrease, eliminating otters’ food sources. River otters have been reintroduce into the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and have made a comeback in Ohio. 

The piece of art will be displayed at the zoo’s North American river otter habitat.