Students design pumpkin display for annual zoo event


    There is a new addition to the Fort Worth Zoo for Halloween that isn’t animal or human. Several art and design students showed off their tricks of the trade last week in a colorful pumpkin patch lighting display for the zoo’s annual Halloween event, Boo at the Zoo.

    Cameron Schoepp, associate professor of art, said the zoo contacted him with the idea of having students carve the pumpkins for the display. He said this was the first time the College of Fine Arts has partnered with the zoo for the event.

    Instructors of art Matt Clark and Chris Powell had their art classes team up to carve 40 pumpkins for the display, Schoepp said.

    Fred Oberkircher, associate professor of merchandising and textiles, gave his Lighting for Special Purposes class the task of creating the display.

    Alumna Allison Speer, the zoo’s assistant marketing director, said she knew about the lighting department and asked if students could take on the project.

    Speer said the display, “Grinning Grove,” covers only a small area by the duck pond, but everyone walking on the main path can see it.

    “We’re definitely going to ask them to come back and do it next year,” she said. “They went above and beyond. They did a great job.”

    Speer said this was the first time people outside the zoo did the lighting display, but students frequently volunteer for the event.

    Emily Grierson, a senior interior design major in the class, said she enjoyed volunteering in the past but was excited to be a part this year.

    Grierson said her class of seven students spent a week going to the zoo to survey the area and spent another two weeks creating the display. Their main goal was to light the pumpkins with various colors using Christmas lights, flood lights, pumpkin lights and colored tubular lights to entertain families in the community, she said.

    It was a long process with little time and resources, Grierson said, but it was fun and worth the effort.

    “It’s really colorful,” she said. “There are different areas and layers of light everywhere. Your eyes will be constantly moving around.”

    The lighting students take turns going to Boo at the Zoo each night to watch over the lights to make sure there are no mishaps or technical difficulties, Grierson said.

    Grierson said the display will be graded, but Schoepp said the art students could just have fun and carve the pumpkins however they liked.

    Once the zoo delivered the pumpkins, his students spent half a class period carving pumpkins and enjoying the weather outside, Clark said.

    “I think it’s a great activity for students to take a break from the coursework we have and help the community,” Clark said. “It’s always exciting to see how they take experiences from TCU and go out into the community and share their knowledge and excitement for life.