Carole and I spent Memorial Day weekend down in Durham, NC, where we lived in the mid-1990s. (I lived there from the fall of 1993 to the spring of 1998; Carole was there from early 1996 to the spring of 1998.) Though we’d been back for a few weddings in the late 1990s, we hadn’t been back just for fun in almost twenty years.
We did all manner of nifty things — we hung out at the Sarah Duke Gardens at Duke University (that’s where we had our wedding ceremony in 1997), we ate a lot of tasty Southern food that we really didn’t need, we attended a Sunday morning service at Duke Chapel, we toured the Oscar-Mayer Wienermobile, we visited with friends… and we got to watch lemurs finger-painting!
I used to volunteer (pre-Carole) at the Duke University Primate Center (now known as the Duke Lemur Center) and have always had a fondness for the place. It’s changed a lot since my days there in 1993-1995 — much nicer buildings and equipment, much better education programs, you name it. They’re also much more savvy these days about extracting money from well-meaning and lemur-loving donors. For the right amount of money, you can be Keeper For A Day and experience feeding and tending to the lemurs; you can visit them in the woods and watch them merrily bounding about and climbing and leaping and stuff; you can ‘adopt’ a lemur and get periodic photos and updates of your special animal, and so on. (If you’re in the Durham, NC area and want a tour, click here. They have all kinds of cool opportunities.)
Aaaaaaand — you can paint with lemurs.
Which we did.
Okay, you don’t actually get to do the painting. You get to pick two or three colors of lemur-safe finger paint and then sit back and watch while the lemurs track around on canvas boards trickled with the paint. The lemurs get bits of grapes to encourage them to get involved and they seem to enjoy it. A DLC employee named Faye did the paint-drizzling and grape-supplying and two black and white ruffed lemurs named Rees and AJ did the actual painting. It was a lot of fun.
Because we’re basically loons, we brought along some of our stuffed animals, which you’ll see in the photos above– two ringtailed lemurs (Mama Lemur and Baby Lemur), a Coquerel’s sifaka named Little Dude, and a slow loris named Lorelei. Faye wasn’t fazed by us walking in with stuffed animals; I imagine she’s seen weirder things.
As you’ll see in the photos, the lemurs crawled around on quite a few canvases but we were only allowed to pick three to take home with us. We took our three back home and had them framed. We assume the ones they kept will fetch high prices on the “lemur art” market.