‘Human Zoo’ lightens load for neighbors during social distancing

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — One of the things people are missing the most as we works to slow the spread of coronavirus is the human connection: that handshake or hug from a friend or a neighbor.

A couple in one Grand Rapids neighborhood is trying to make up for some of that loss. It involves dressing up like a favorite cartoon character and taking to the streets.

“I mean, it’s just a normal day, right? Isn’t it?” Teresa Kinnear said as she and her kids sat in their driveway, dressed in fairy tale costumes.

Up and down the streets of Alger Heights Thursday, neighbors who have maintained social distancing at least got a chance to laugh.

“It’s good to be able to do some of the things that we would normally… Maybe not normally. Do we always dress like this?” Kinnear asked her daughter Molly.

They call it a Human Zoo.

Kelsie and Harley Dean, who live in the neighborhood and are professional photographers, read about a similar project to lighten the load as we deal with COVID-19. Another photographer convinced neighbors to dress up so they could take pictures and post them to social media.

“Nobody’s ever experienced anything like this,” Kelsie Dean said of the widespread social distancing measures in effect.

“That they could record,” Harley Dean added.

For the couple, it’s a little bit about of capturing history, a little bit about giving neighbors a reason to smile when they need it most.

“Even though I can’t be at the front lines at the hospital getting all of that, to see kind of what the average, everyday person is literally stuck doing,” Kelsie Dean said. “And then giving them an outlet to kind of get out of the house for a few seconds and be creative safely is really fun.”