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There’s a wonderful show in Midtown’s Work Detroit gallery that is a testament to the imagination and talent of the area’s youth and the community outreach efforts of local learning institutions. “The Gathering of the Herd” features an inspired assortment of baby elephants fashioned out of a wide variety of recycled materials. Some are the work of Detroit’s Marcus Garvey Elementary students, made in collaboration with students from the Detroit Connections class at The University of Michigan’s School of Art & Design. Others were built by students from Marygrove College’s Division of Visual & Performing Art, with their skins created by students from 15 metro-Detroit schools. The herd is meant to inspire continued dialogue about environmental sustainability, conservation and our connection to the Earth.

Elephants from "The Gathering of the Herd." Photo by Matthew Piper

The project is a response to the 2010 visit of South African sculptor Andries Botha’s “Nomkhubulwane” to Detroit. The 9-foot-tall elephant sculpture, fashioned out of steel and recycled truck tires, traveled across North America and was temporarily installed at Marygrove College in October, moving to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in November.

More elephants from the herd. Photo by Matthew Piper

The students’ elephants all have distinct personalities. Some are quiet, even austere, others exuberant and colorful. It’s clear that they were made with a great deal of care, talent and enthusiasm. There’s plenty to see and consider at the show if you’re a grown-up, but kids, especially, will love it (and, being closer to the elephants’ height, will probably see more than we can).

The elephants come in all shades of the rainbow. Photo by Matthew Piper

“The Gathering of the Herd” is on view until June 24 at Work Detroit, 3663 Woodward Ave. (in Orchestra Place); 313-593-0940; www.art-design.umich.edu/exhibitions/work_detroit/.

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