Client: Tufts University
Location: Medford, MA, United States
Completion date: 2015
Artwork budget: $300,000
Steven Whyte Studios
After the demise of Jumbo, the beloved stuffed elephant on Tuft's campus, in an electrical fire, a wealthy donor commissioned an 11×18 foot bronze statue of Jumbo. Steven Whyte won this commission.
In considering the design for Jumbo, Whyte wanted to pay homage not only to Jumbo the celebrated elephant, but also to the role that Jumbo played and would continue to hold in the Tuft’s community. Naturalistic and friendly, the monument calls out to students and visitors, inspiring group photos and camaraderie.
Whyte sculpted Jumbo with his trunk slightly lifted at the end in a classic good luck image. Whyte also wanted to make sure traditions with the elephant were upheld with this new sculpture. In a creative gesture to ensure this, he subtly flattened the last bend of Jumbo’s trunk so that students can reinstate the tradition of stacking pennies on the elephant’s trunk for good luck with exams and sporting events. A second ritual in which students gave the stuffed Jumbo a tug on his tail has also been incorporated into the design with special care and stainless-steel reinforcement ensuring that sculpture is “tug friendly.”
Whyte used archival pictures and zoo visits to create small models of the elephant before beginning work on the full-size statue at his studio. The 11 ft bronze African elephant statue took 11 months to craft, utilizing a massive 3,000 pounds of clay.