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Tuesday, February 13, 2018
at 12 PM – 12:50 PM

Part of the Animal Matters Seminars of Spring 2018:
The Intersection of Art and Animals Series
presented by Tufts Center for Animals and Public Policy


Rick and Laura Brown
Co-Founders, Handshouse Studio and Faculty, Massachusetts College of Art

View recorded seminar here:

Rick and Laura were interviewed after the seminar by of Worcester, Massachusetts. Click here for article

In 2010, Professor Rick Brown and Laura Brown, co-founders of Handshouse Studio and faculty at Massachusetts College of Art, learned of two beloved 8,000 lb. Asian elephants named Emily and Ruth living at the Buttonwood Zoo in New Bedford, MA. After speaking with the zoo’s directors and learning about the elephants’ need for stimulation they realized that this would be the perfect challenge for art and design students.
Rick Brown designed the “Toys for Elephants” program and introduced it at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, MA, in collaboration with Handshouse Studio.
The objective is for students to design and create objects and activities that will enhance the quality of life of animals in captivity. Students work with biologist and animal trainers to study animal behavior and befriend two adult elephants from the Buttonwood Park Zoo in New Bedford, MA, to design and produce full- scale functional toys for elephant enrichment.
The Toys for Elephants project is an interface between science and art as well as a public service collaboration between three non-profit educational organizations: Handshouse Studio, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and The Buttonwood Zoo. Now in its 7th year, the Toys for Elephants program and its innovative approach to interdisciplinary design and problem-solving, hopes to serve as a model for similar programs at zoos across the country.
Addressing the issue of the future well-being of elephants in captivity is of particular relevance today. All around the globe the natural habitats for elephants are quickly diminishing causing an inevitable increase in the numbers of elephants in captivity. The Toys for Elephants project provides young students an opportunity to take part in a significant real-life design problem and the potential to make a better and more sustainable future.
For more information go to

Members of the public are invited to this seminar at no charge.

Made possible by the generous support of: Elizabeth A. Lawrence Endowed Fund

About Tufts Center for Animals and Public Policy
The mission of the Tufts Center for Animals and Public Policy is to conduct and encourage the study of complex issues surrounding the changing role and impact of animals in society. The Center supports the development and dissemination of research driven policies, programs and practices that benefit both people and animals.
Work conducted by the Center is based on the tenets that animal well-being matters, that animal and human well-being are linked, and that both are enhanced through improved understanding of human-animal relationships.


Photo above courtesy of Handhouse Studio