From fine arts to crafts to murals, Portland has it all. One genre we especially have an abundance of is … the quirky arts. Artist Mike Bennett’s wooden, cartoon-style menageries that have brought so much joy to families during the pandemic definitely fall into this category.

Early in the pandemic, he started filling his lawn with pop icons he’d painted on wood cutouts to bring smiles to families on walks. (Bennett says at least two kids have said their first words while looking at his displays!) Unfortunately, most of the cutouts were stolen, so he embarked on creating A to Zoo, a fun and educational evolving display of animals that also included a 60-second behind-the-scenes video with each entry. He’s gone on to tackle bugs, dinosaurs, folklore, extinct animals, cold creatures and the solar system. And he’s got an exciting new display due to launch on April 20, exactly one year after his first animal entry in A to Zoo. “This time around, I’m tackling my most requested subject matter ever — sea life!” says Bennett. “This colorful menagerie will have everything from whales to fish to sharks — all the way to some super-unexpected creatures!”

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And Bennett is going to make his new display even more interactive. “I’ll have surprise musical guests, animal appearances and a postcard station where you can write to your family or friends and I’ll stamp it/mail it for you,” he says. “Plenty of other surprises are in store!”

Follow Bennett on Instagram to see what he’s up to, and to learn about upcoming displays!

Denise Castañon
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