Portrait of PocketsMeet Pockets Warhol. A painting monkey whose art saved his sanctuary. NOW STREAMING ON CBC GEM
Pockets Warhol, a capuchin monkey, spent the first few years of his life as a pet in British Columbia. When his owner found it too difficult to take care of him, she reached out for help from Story Book Farm, a primate sanctuary in Southwestern Ontario that was already home to nearly 20 other primates. Despite being volunteer-run with limited space, the sanctuary had a place for Pockets to start his new life.
In no time at all, Pockets took to his new home and became known as one of the smartest primates taking residence at the sanctuary. He began to bond with Charmaine, a volunteer who spends her weekends taking care of the primates.
After seeing the way orangutans used painting as a form of rehabilitation, Charmaine took a chance and laid out some canvas with a set of paints. Without hesitation, Pockets began his first masterpiece and, with Charmaine as his muse, Pockets began creating his very own abstract pieces.
Soon the canvases were piling up and the other volunteers began to take notice. It was time to spread the word. Charmaine arranged for Pockets' first exhibition at a diner in downtown Toronto. The city began to buzz with the question: can a monkey really make art?
Charmaine shared photos of the pieces online and Pockets' work began to draw attention across the globe, both by new fans like Ricky Gervais and Jane Goodall and in magazines and newspapers including Maclean's and National Geographic.
Pockets was becoming a star in the art world with his trademark abstract style. But just as Pockets began to reach the peak of his career, the primate sanctuary began to face financial challenges. Their owner needed to sell the land, and now the volunteers were facing eviction with no money to buy a new plot of land. Each of the primates that called Story Book Farm their home was on the verge of being homeless or far worse. Charmaine was certain that Pockets could use his talent for good and bring much-needed attention to the sanctuary to save it from closing down.
Portrait of Pockets follows Pockets and Charmaine as they team up together to use art to make a difference.