Viktor Schreckengost's Prehistoric Pachyderms Are Back On View

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by David C. Barnett

A popular piece of public art is once again on display in Northeast Ohio--after an extended hibernation.  Viktor Schreckengost's life-sized sculptures of a mammoth and a mastodon have moved to a new, and more visible location.

The word "iconic" is probably overused, but Schreckengost's prehistoric pachyderms rate that description.  They were a prominent picture spot at the Cleveland Zoo for over 50 years, until they were sent to storage, when the Zoo remodeled its elephant exhibit in 2008.  The famous sculptures are now in a prominent location, just behind the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, at M.L.K. Drive and East 105th street.  Schreckengost's widow Gene likes the new location.

"I think it's spectacular in the way it looks," she says.  "I think it's wonderful that it will be so visible to so many people. So many people now will see it."

She fondly recalls that her husband loved to watch kids posing beneath his over 12-foot-high sculpture.  Natural History Museum director Evalyn Gates sees this monumental artwork as  an important signpost for all of University Circle's cultural attractions. 

"And I'm not sure we always stop to recognize that," she says.  "If you have a collection of great institutions or if you have a wonderful community, having something that says 'You Are Here' makes a huge difference."

The newly positioned sculptures also anchor the site of a new piece of green infrastruture.  A stormwater basin will allow excessive rains to filter back into the ground, taking the burden off of nearby sewers.

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