In 2012, Kelly was privileged to take part in a "jumbo" open-air art installation in Melbourne.

As part of Melbourne Zoo’s 150th birthday celebrations, the zoo commissioned 50 life-size fiberglass sculptures of the zoo’s famous elephant calf, Mali, and invited artists to submit designs to paint on them.

Each elephant sculpture was sponsored by a business or organization who chose the design they wanted on their Mali.

Kelly's design "Endangered Asia", chosen by major sponsor "City of Melbourne", incorporated 37 species of endangered animals from Asia.


It would take me two and a half months of full time painting from start to finish. Firstly though, I had to get the sculpture home from the zoo... I wonder what other drivers thought of an elephant traveling in a horse float?

Elephant sculpture being transported to studio and painted

Once home, Mali was installed in the dining room and Kelly began painting. She used a projector to enlarge her design from A4 size to mammoth. After drawing the animals, she blocked them in and then went back and added all the details that would bring them to life - fur, eyes, whiskers.

She also had to detail Mali herself, on her face, belly and legs. The wrinkles on the trunk were definitely the hardest challenge but the end result looked amazing.

Mali was given a coat of automotive clearcoat at the local panel beaters to seal and weatherproof the paint and then it was back off to Melbourne Zoo...

Before the sculptures where put on display around the streets of Melbourne, all the artists and sponsors were given a sneak preview of the entire herd! It was a wonderful opportunity to see the amazing designs other artists had come up with and appreciate all the hard work that had gone into each one.

Kelly's "Endangered Asia" Mali and one other were chosen to be part of the official opening of the “Mali in the City” exhibition with Lord Mayor Sir Robert Doyle unveiling them in front of the City Hall.

​After attending the opening (and being interviewed, filmed and photographed by the press! Gulp!), I spent the rest of the day walking round Melbourne seeing how many elephants I could spot - I managed 30 of the 50.

The Mali sculptures stayed in their locations around Melbourne for six weeks before the whole herd returned to Melbourne Zoo to be displayed there for another month. Then all the sculptures were auctioned off, raising over $400,000 for the zoo’s conservation projects.

Kelly's Mali sculpture was bought by the Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens with a grant from the Ian Potter Foundation and spent several years on public display in the Children’s Garden there.

Over time, the wear and tear of hundreds of children hugging and climbing on Mali began to tell on her and she was retired from public display. She now lives in the artist's garden much to the delight of Kelly's own small daughter.