Inclusive art studio hides 200 rabbit sculptures in Rochester parks

Oct 9, 2017

Despite the gray sky outside, inside the studio was quite cheerful.

The bright, colorful space housed three girls chatting about the weekend while glazing handmade bunnies.

Sarah Beren is a licensed creative art therapist and owns Spotted Rabbit, a studio with art classes, art therapy and an apprenticeship program for a population within the disability community she saw was underserved.

"I went to a training about job development for them. And I started asking, 'Well, what about these people that need staff with them or are nonverbal who can’t be left alone in the community?' "

What she found was hardly anything. To fill this void, Beren created the program, which she says gives people who are highly functional yet can’t quite work independently a purpose, a structured schedule and a job - artists sell their work around Rochester.

Ellie Anolik is one of those artists; she said her favorite medium is clay.

"I like how you can get mad at it, and you can take it all out on the clay.”

Beren said they would like to do more shows and participate in galleries, but many art spaces in the city are more “do it yourself”-type spaces presenting a number of challenges to their artists. Allergies are an issue, or how maintained the buildings are; whether or not snow is plowed in the winter.

"A lot of the galleries are on the second floor with no wheelchair accessibility. So we've had a lot of potential partnerships with folks, but then it’s like well, our artist can’t come to her own show opening.”

The latest project to come out of the studio, with the help of a Livingston Arts grant, is 200 rabbit sculptures. For seven months, artists molded and glazed and baked 200 rabbits, giving them names and hiding them in 41 parks around Rochester.

"The idea was that we would have individuals who don’t normally have an opportunity to make public art, make public art. And then also people who may not have an opportunity to go see art or own a piece of artwork actually be able to find it in their local park, pick it up, and take it home."

Beren says they have heard back from only 45 owners who have found rabbits, meaning there are many more out there waiting for a new home. 

This story is reported from WXXI’s Inclusion Desk.