Client: City of El Paso Museums and Cultural Affairs Department
Location: El Paso, TX, United States
Completion date: 2019
Artwork budget: $300,000
Museum and Cultural Affairs
City of El Paso
El Paso Zoo
City of El Paso
Persistencia, a 14’ tall stone sculpture of a Mexican Wolf, anchors the entry to the new Chihuahuan Desert exhibit at El Paso Zoo. The Mexican Gray Wolf is an endangered species native to the Chihuahuan ecosystem. The sculpture is made from three blocks of quartzitic sandstone, each weighing roughly 8,000 lbs. The blocks were carved individually then stacked for final shaping.
Persistencia speaks to the struggle and survival of the Mexican Gray Wolf. The sculpture provides a dramatic gateway to the new exhibit and introduces visitors to the rich desert habitat. As a part of the mission of conservation and education, the Zoo is involved in a breeding program to help reintroduce wolves into the wild. For their protection, the wolves in the program must be kept away from human contact. Persistencia stands in as a beloved mascot, fostering an emotional bond between visitors and these endangered animals and, in turn, a sense of stewardship and responsibility to protect and preserve the wolf population.
Working with the interpretive staff at the zoo, the artist’s team studied the Mexican Wolf and the Chihuahuan Desert to develop an understanding of the animal the ecosystem. The result is an interactive artwork that speaks to both the wolves and the desert environment. The sculpture is scaled for interaction and invites exploration and learning. The central image of the wolf is surrounded by stones which are etched and carved images of other Chihuahuan species to illustrate the delicate web of interconnections in the desert habitat.
Inspired by Persistencia, the El Paso Zoo has launched a new Art as a Conservation Tool program inviting students in the El Paso, Texas – Juarez, Mexico region to participate in a project that will shine a light on the Mexican wolf and the work to save the species from extinction. The program has a special focus on efforts underway in Texas. Over the past year over 20,000 zoo visitors signed letters asking Texas Parks and Wildlife to support a wolf reintroduction effort. Participants are invited to use creative resources to create art, sculpture, textiles, collages, write a poem or story, video, or audio to create a piece of art that reflects the Mexican wolf.