Elephant Parade: American Artist on European Public Art, Royalty, & Conservation

Elephants are on parade across Europe, trekking all the way to Southeast Asia, raising publicElephant Parade awareness and millions of dollars in funding for conservation of the endangered Asian elephant.  These are artists’ versions of course, not the real thing, parading the streets of Milan, Heerlen, Copenhagen and points beyond.  The Elephant Parade is the world’s largest open-air art exhibit casting the elephants’ 6 foot tall life-size presence onto the streets of participating cities.

The brainchild of a father & son team, Marc and Michael Spits, the Rotterdam, Netherlands Zoo was the first to take them up on their idea of an Elephant Parade with a sponsorship, and more of the same quickly followed. Experts know all too well that Asian elephants have been in decline since the early 20th century and populations have fallen from 250,000 to somewhere between 20,000 to 40,000 due to loss of habitat, poaching, and accidents. The Elephant Parade art and its success is described by the Asian Elephant Foundation:

“Painted by local and international artists, each elephant is a unique piece of art. After the exhibition, all elephants are auctioned off by a leading auction house. Part of all proceeds from Elephant Parade are donated to The Asian Elephant Foundation.”  Over 4 Million Euros have been donated between 2007 and 2010.

Sona Mirzaei, the only American artist to be invited to participate in the Elephant Parade, tells us how that happened and gives her impressions and experiences of working with Danish friend, the well-known artist Per Hillo under unusual conditions – at Copenhagen’s Illum, a major department store.  Mirzaei shares what her participation in co-creating public art to raise awareness for a cause meant to her throughout the process, the success of the event so far, and possibilities of US participation next year. You can get to know her through her work at Sona Art



  1. […] sculptures in public for fundraising auctions in each host city! I spoke with Sona Mirzaei for Animal Cafe and got the inside […]

  2. […] Sona Mirzaei. This week, Sona joined Mary Haight, Animal Cafe’s animal welfare correspondent, to talk about her involvement in the Elephant Parade. Sona shares some of her experiences with Mary, including her involvement in creating a unique […]