How Tahoe Mack is Using Sculpture to Raise Environmental Awareness

By Jessi C. Acuña, Photography by Yevgeniy Zakharkin | September 18, 2019 | Culture

College freshman Tahoe Mack raises awareness of protected lands in North Las Vegas through a mammoth project—literally.

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Eighteen-year-old Tahoe Mack sits in front of her project “The Monumental Mammoth.” To donate, visit protectorsoftulesprings.org.

Tahoe Mack. Black Rock City. Monumental mammoth. No, this isn’t the next big festival lineup; it’s a tale of a young lady and her supersized Girl Scouts project.

Like many recent high school graduates, 18-year-old Mack is gearing up for her first year of college. The Bishop Gorman alum plans to attend the University of Oregon this fall, and, while she’s excited for her next move, she’s got some unfinished work ahead.

For the last three years, Mack has been hard at work creating a life-sized Columbian mammoth sculpture, an idea that came to her after hearing former Girl Scout leader Sherri Grotheer’s presentation about ancient fossil beds at Tule Springs. Interested in environmental issues, Mack saw an opportunity to accomplish her Gold Award, which teaches scouts to identify an issue and come up with a sustainable solution. She wanted to speak to the past—100,000-year-old Ice Age fossils— while raising awareness for the future—stop polluting the area. “The Monumental Mammoth” is made of repurposed metals, much of which were recovered during cleanups in the area, a dumping ground for many years.

Fast-forward to 2019: Numerous donations from local philanthropists and community members, support from politicians and hours upon hours of volunteer manpower devoted to building the structure have led to the final project. This month, Mack returns home from Black Rock City, the temporary metropolis for art, self-reliance and community, and home to Burning Man. “The Monumental Mammoth” was one of the installations selected for an honoraria grant by the annual event—a big feat considering it’s regarded as a mecca for large-scale sculptures. “I think the whole message of Burning Man is to be yourself and everyone will accept you,” says Mack.

Throughout this process, Mack has found a new community, including local artists Luis Varela- Rico and Burning Man regular San Francisco-based Dana Albany—who have been integral in the artistic design—Tule Springs nonprofit the Protectors and the many others she’s met along the way. “The people that have been working on it, some of their stories are just incredible,” she says. “They really put their hearts into this.”

The 6,000-pound sculpture has one more pit stop before heading to its permanent home: The Life Is Beautiful Music & Art Festival (Sept. 20 to 22), where LED lighting strips, donated by Switch, will light up “The Monumental Mammoth” to match the beat of the music. Then, the sculpture will travel to its permanent home at the Ice Age Fossils State Park in North Las Vegas, where it’ll welcome visitors when it opens mid-2020. Mack adds, “I’m just still so honored to be a part of this.”



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