census 2020

The completed community mural is now on display permanently in the National Aviary’s Learning Center.

Photo: An Aviary guest paints part of the community mural designed as a paint-by-number by Artist Maria DeSimone Prascak of Maria’s Ideas. By Haley McMonagle

By Haley McMonagle

Maria DeSimone Prascak of Maria’s Ideas presented Brushes and Birds at the National Aviary on Nov. 2-3. This event, included with admission, featured family-friendly art projects designed by DeSimone Prascak. Prints of her artwork were also available for sale at the event.

“My artwork is inspired by the Aviary and the birds,” said DeSimone Prascak. “My very first art class ever in my career of 37 years was here in 1988. Met my husband, Johno, here and his artwork hangs permanently, and we also met here in 1988.”

DeSimone Prascak said she met with people from the Aviary a few months ago to brainstorm a
“creative weekend.” One of the projects they produced was a 30-foot rainforest mural that
includes images of the birds and sloths living at the Aviary.

“I created a paint by number so you can come, paint this mural, sign the back and when it is all done, it’s going to permanently hang in the classroom for everyone to see.”

DeSimone Prascak hopes to inspire people not only to paint but to be inspired as individuals.
“I hope it inspires people to be creative,” said DeSimone Prascak. “Play with paint and art, it’s very therapeutic.”

Not only did visitors get the opportunity to participate in making their mark at the Aviary through the community mural, but there was also a scavenger hunt to encourage exploration of the facility.

“I designed a piece of artwork that is comprised of multiple pieces of colorful paper in different sizes and shapes and they have to figure out the clues,” said DeSimone Prascak. “Throughout the Aviary there are little boxes of these little pieces that they find and at the end, they put them together and that creates one of the birds that live here.”

DeSimone Prascak also set up a coloring station at the Aviary for both adults and children. Photo by Haley McMonagle

Guests were also able to color in custom art designed by DeSimone Prascak to take home.

“I designed four coloring pages that are also free to the public,” said DeSimone Prascak.

“There is a coloring station where they can sit and color. Two are more for adults that are a little more detailed and two for children. Again, all designed from the birds and sloths that live here.”

DeSimone Prascak leads a painting class for Brushes and Birds with sloth model, Valentino. Photo by Haley McMonagle

DeSimone Prascak also taught four one-hour painting classes. They were $40 a person and supplied new or experienced artists with all the supplies and models necessary to paint in a low-pressure environment.

“The painting classes I am teaching are two sloths and two owls, one each day,” said DeSimone Prascak. “We have live models. Valentino is going to be the model for the sloth… then there is the Eurasian eagle owl. No experience is necessary. There may be people with more experience.”

DeSimone Prascak said her classes are very laid back.

“I show everything step by step, which brush to hold, and how to hold it. If they already know and they want to move on, they can move forward and don’t have to wait for the next step. I actually like it when everyone’s paintings don’t look the same,” she said.

Brushes and Birds allowed for a community of artists to create a timeless work of art for the Aviary where they could make their mark no matter their experience.
“For me, [the mural is] the most exciting part of this because as one person, most people would say ‘I can’t paint’ or ‘I don’t know how to paint a mural,’ so everyone does their little bit and together it creates this giant mural. [It’s] a work of art which I think is really special,” she said.

The completed mural was revealed to the public on Thursday, Nov. 21 and is now on display permanently in the National Aviary’s Learning Center.


The completed community mural, designed as a paint-by-number, is now on display permanently in the National Aviary’s Learning Center. Photo by Molly Titus

The National Aviary is always offering special events and DeSimone Prascak says it continues to have a lot to offer beyond just animals.

“I think a lot of people don’t even realize that it’s not just a place to look at beautiful birds and sloths. They are involved in conservation and education internationally, it’s fantastic what they do. This is the National Aviary, there is no other one in the country. It is a very
special place; a treasure for sure.”