UI campus welcomes new, unique statue in Urbana

URBANA, Ill., (WCIA) — What would you do if you were driving down the street, looked over, and saw a woolly mammoth sculpture on the truck next to you?

That was real life for some on Monday when a life-size mammoth made its way through Urbana. Thousands of years ago though, you could find them walking on the U of I campus where many now walk daily.

Some professors want you to know about the history and said this sculpture could help.

“We want something that both has a history of the earth context and also something that has a biological context. Something that would relate to people today,” Stephen Marshak, a retired professor in the Department of Earth Science and Environmental Change said.

So, the University of Illinois decided on a mammoth. Marshak described the animal as dramatic and said it’s the largest animal since the dinosaurs to have lived in Illinois.

The creation made its 16-mile journey from Taylor Studios in Rantoul to the Natural History Building off of Mathews Street, next to the Illini Union.

“We wanted the sculpture that would represent the heritage of the building,” Marshak added.

It’s part of the “Art in Architecture” program on campus and has been in the works for many years.

“It’ll be an opportunity to see what this part of the world would’ve looked like 30,000 years ago when it was really quite different,” Marshak said.

He wants people to remember that landscapes are constantly changing and that people know the U of I campus occupies a land that has been around for geologic time.

The mammoth is making people stop and take a look.

Leo Kemp, a U of I student, said he purposefully walked toward the Natural History Building on the Quad to find it.

“It’s like an additional eyecatcher for everyone that comes here,” Kemp said.

The mammoth doesn’t have a name yet, but the department plans to have a contest to decide on one soon.

They also plan to add greenery and vegetation around it, the same kind that was around at the same time as the mammoth thousands of years ago. There will also be an educational plaque to learn more about the history.

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