There’s More Than Animals At The Zoo

By Jim Hornsby

“The Nashville Zoo puts a lot of effort into providing an attractive, comfortable environment for both animals and visitors,” says Jim Bartoo, Director of Marketing and Public Relations, “and art plays an important role in that effort.”

“Our President, Rick Schwartz, has worked closely with many artists and craftsmen to design and create the open, natural feeling that makes the zoo such a pleasant and educational place to visit. Rick is passionate about making the zoo a world class facility and he has employed the best people from around the world to make that happen.”

The zoo’s carousel, with its beautifully painted animals and murals, is by Carousel Works of Mansfield, Ohio, the only company in the country that hand carves its wild animals from wood. Zsolt Hormay, who did the Tree of Life exhibit at Disney World, came to Nashville to sculpt the remarkably fine cement animals that surround the carousel as well as the lorikeets at the zoo’s Lorikeet Landing.

David Rock, a muralist from Santa Fe, New Mexico, did the backdrop for the zoo’s amphitheatre, and just outside the zoo supports for the railroad overpass have been painted by Franklin muralist Michael Cooper. A number of other artists have contributed to the rich variety of art at the zoo, including Middle Tennesseans Christian Sperka and Byron Jorjorian who have wildlife photography exhibited in various buildings there.


Photos by Jim Hornsby


Professional artists have contributed much to the zoo, but so have local volunteers. “When we opened in 1997,” Jim recalls, “we decided to build a kid’s playground with volunteers. The turnout was terrific and gave us not only the largest volunteer-constructed playground in the country, but also a solid bond and sense of togetherness with the community that has been a tremendous asset for all our endeavors.”

An article about art at the zoo would not be complete without mentioning the elephants who paint. Elephants are intelligent, sensitive animals, and in the wild, they have a natural tendency to pick up sticks or rocks with their trunks and “draw” on the ground and other surfaces. They readily adapt to painting with a brush, and once oriented to the technique, they genuinely enjoy the activity and produce some charming results. The painting pictured below is by Sukari, an African elephant at the Nashville Zoo who, while relatively new at painting, is developing her own style and economy of movement.

“We are always looking for stimulating activities that promote the mental and physical well being of the animals,” Jim says, “and art projects have been especially rewarding. There is a lot of art in nature and nature inspires a lot of art.”

About  The Nashville Zoo

Hours and Admission Prices

  • The Zoo is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.


  • The  Zoo is located at 3777 Nolensville Pike, Nashville, TN 37211.
  • From I-24: Exit Harding Place (#56) on the east side of Nashville and head west about 1.5 miles to Nolensville Pike. Turn right on Nolensville and the Zoo is about one mile on your left.
  • From I-65: Exit Harding Place (#78A) on the south side of Nashville and head east to Nolensville Pike about 2 miles. Turn left on Nolensville and the Zoo is about one mile on your left.
  • From I-440: Exit Nolensville Pike (#6) on the south side of Nashville and head south about 2.6 miles. The Zoo is on your right.


  • Telephone: 615-833-1534

Rules and Regulations

  • Find answers to some of your most frequently asked questions. Learn More

Zoo Map

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