Art & Sculpture at the Zoo

Many of the features that make a visit to the Toledo Zoo a unique experience are developed right here by our talented Interpretive Services team.

The Toledo Zoo’s distinctive exhibits and theme areas like Nature’s Neighborhood, Africa! and the Arctic Encounter® are a result of careful planning and creative production by the Interpretive Services department. The Toledo Zoo is always recognized as one of the nation’s top zoos, and our Graphics & Exhibit Design team works diligently to maintain that image. Here are some of the important projects that they are responsible for:

  • Graphic design for ongoing Toledo Zoo publications such as Safari Magazine, the annual report, maps, and brochures
  • Various advertisements produced by the Toledo Zoo
  • Graphic design and production of various signs and banners distributed throughout the Zoo grounds
  • Original graphic theme development for the Toledo Zoo website
  • Conceptual planning and research for Toledo Zoo exhibits, including considerations for public safety and education needs
  • Development and production of all kiosks and activities located in exhibits throughout the Zoo
  • Selecting the artistic components and decor used in various buildings and exhibits throughout the Zoo
  • Developing visual elements for various Toledo Zoo events
  • Hands-on painting, sculpting, and construction of creative features found in exhibits throughout the Toledo Zoo

Read on for a description of artists and their art that you can see on your trip to the Zoo!

Arthur Cox

At the depths of the Great Depression, New Deal programs such as the Works Progress Administration (WPA) sought to put millions of Americans back to work. One such individual was Arthur Cox, a stone carver who created some of the most iconic works at The Toledo Zoo.

Ever since they were first installed, no visit to the Zoo has been complete without a photo taken on the elephant and bison statues located near the sloth bear exhibit. The Zoo is proud to have helped make so many family memories over the course of generations.

Cox’s work can also be seen throughout the historic side of the Zoo, including the stegosaurus and triceratops statues as well as the carvings that adorn the entrances to the Reptile House. The dolphin sculpture located outside the Aviary was restored by area stone artisan George Carruth in 1998 as part of the award-winning renovations to that building.

A sample of one of Woody LaPlante's murals inside the cobra exhibit at the Zoo's Reptile House
A sample of one of Woody LaPlante's murals inside the cobra exhibit at the Zoo's Reptile House

Woody Laplante

Another WPA-era artist to make an indelible mark on the Zoo is Woody LaPlante. His naturalistic murals make the individual exhibits in the Reptile House come alive. From desert vistas to forest scenes, LaPlante’s artistry gives a sense of place to the exhibits, enabling the visitor to form a closer connection to the reptiles they encounter. In the 1990s The Toledo Zoo was fortunate enough to have Woody LaPlante return to restore many of these works to their former brilliance.

A sample of one of Woody LaPlante's murals inside the cobra exhibit at the Zoo's Reptile House
A sample of one of Woody LaPlante's murals inside the cobra exhibit at the Zoo's Reptile House

Pat Wagenman

Local sculptor Patricia Wagenman was an avid supporter of the Zoo. Her most noted work, the Hippo Arch, graced the entrance to the Hippoquarium® and the African Savanna until the spring of 2012, when the hippo heads were taken down from their pedestals for maintenance concerns. The cherished sculptures were relocated to a site near the Carnivore Cafe so that visitors can still get a closer look at them on their way to Tembo Trail. The sculpture was completed in 1986 and dedicated the following year.

Wagenman also sculpted two bronze pandas. These pandas are Le Le and Nan Nan, the Chinese pandas that visited the Zoo in the summer of 1988. Their visit looms large in the Zoo’s legacy, and this remarkable is a fitting tribute.

The construction of the Kingdom of the Apes gave our gorilla family a wonderful new meadow to roam in. The Gorilla Family sculpture not only commemorates that occasion, it also presents human families with an irresistible photo opportunity.

Other sculptures throughout the Zoo:

This charming penguin can be found between the penguin exhibit and the waterfowl pond. It was sculpted by Bill Malis.
Carl McClesky and Betsy Scott are a husband-and-wife sculpting team based in Georgia. Their bronze lions can be seen in the Africa! exhibit.
The bronze tigress and cubs statue located by the Tiger Terrace was a gift from the Devilbiss High School Class of 1960. Sculpted by Matthew Gray Palmer, this work was dedicated in August 2003.
The Grecian lady seen here can be found in the Zoo’s Formal Gardens. It was sculpted in 1869 by the French Sculptor Louis Savageau, whose work can also be found in the Botanical Garden of Rio de Janeiro.
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