“When you’re making something like this, it’s hand-in-hand. You need community.”
~ Tahoe Mack

Two of Nevada HAND’s family communities are home to very active Girl Scout troops with a strong focus on engaging with the people and organizations in their neighborhood. A field trip to the newly established Ice Age Fossils State Park was a natural extension of these Girl Scouts’ commitment to learn more about and engage with their local community. This trip also featured an extra-special guest: Tahoe Mack, a Gold Award Girl Scout and the visionary behind the life-sized mammoth sculpture at the entrance to the park.  

The Girl Scouts gathered on a windy late spring day, and Tahoe shared with them how the Monumental Mammoth evolved from an idea inspired by the fossils discovered at the park into a towering metal and found object sculpture created in collaboration with prominent local artists, a passionate conservation group, and hundreds of community members.  

Discovering treasures in your own backyard 

Tahoe Mack was a high school student several years into her Girl Scouts journey when the idea of the Monumental Mammoth sculpture began, after a presentation to her troop by a member of a local preservation group, the Protectors of Tule Springs. (Tule Springs is a geographical area in the northern part of the Las Vegas valley that includes the Tule Springs National Monument and, now, the Ice Age Fossils State Park.) As she learned more about the incredible history of this site right in her own city filled with paleontological treasures, Tahoe was inspired by what this resource would mean, especially for kids growing up in Las Vegas, as she did.  

It takes a village 

Creating a life-sized mammoth was a huge undertaking. Fortunately, Tahoe had an incredible team of people, including her dedicated Girl Scout troop leader (aka, her mom!), invested community leaders, and the profound creativity and expertise of local artists Luis Varela-Rico, who designed and built the mammoth’s steel skeleton, and Dana Albany, who created the metal skin.  

Using trash to create art and inspire stewardship 

A special aspect of the Monumental Mammoth sculpture was inspired by a fairly uninspiring problem: people dumping trash on the preserved land. Tahoe proposed incorporating some of the trash into the artwork itself, to make good use of existing discarded items and to inspire others to take better care of this remarkable site. She shared that artist Dana Albany “has the most incredible way of using recycled materials and making the most gorgeous sculpture.” People in the community soon joined in to contribute objects to create the mammoth’s intricate metal skin, donating antiques, old outdoor furniture, and several unique items from a clock and chandelier repair shop.  

Art designed to forge new connections  

Meeting the Girl Scouts from Nevada HAND communities was the first time Tahoe had gotten to share the Monumental Mammoth with a troop. “This is the reason I made the mammoth, to be able to share. It’s a beautiful community project; people gave their time and energy to make it happen. I dreamed of this!” The Nevada HAND Girl Scouts were similarly thrilled to share the moment. One of the troop leaders summed up the exchange between Tahoe and the younger Girl Scouts: “What a great inspiration to the girls! Ms. Tahoe, you’re by far the best Girl Scout we’ve met thus far!” 

Building on the power of community and great stories 

Today, Tahoe holds a degree in sculpture with a minor in business and has started her career as she also keeps an eye out for future art projects. She maintains a close connection with the artists and community members who helped create the mammoth, and she treasures lifelong friendships she found through Girl Scouts. 

For aspiring Gold Award Girl Scouts, or anyone looking to make a dream a reality, Tahoe emphasized the power of storytelling and community building. She reflected on the stories and compelling storytellers that inspired her, from her own Girl Scout troop’s consistent focus on leadership, to the people who stepped up to serve their community as the Protectors of Tule Springs, to the artists and community members who helped bring the Monumental Mammoth into being. “. . . When people come together, they make things happen. . . [and] people come together when you have an amazing story.” 

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