A sculpture depicting several endangered animals riding in a 1928 Model A Ford soon will greet visitors to Cameron Park Zoo, who will have the chance to go on and see some animals of the same species on display in the zoo’s enclosures.
Clifton Robinson is donating the sculpture in memory of Ken Starr, who died last year, and in honor of Starr’s wife, Alice.
Robinson, a Waco businessman, said he and Starr considered donating the sculpture as part of the Waco Sculpture Zoo installed along University Parks Drive a few years ago, but the plan was put on the backburner as the pandemic arrived. Starr moved to Waco when he became president of Baylor University in 2010 after a career that included stints as a federal judge, U.S. solicitor general and leading the investigation that led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment.
Artist Solomon Bassoff made the “Road to Extinction” piece by arranging sculptures of endangered animals, including a rhinoceros, an orangutan, a giraffe, an African elephant and a cheetah, into a 1928 Model A Ford he bought from a car collector after he came up with the idea.
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Bassoff said he built it without a buyer in mind, but planned to sell it to a library or museum.
Robinson said he bought the sculpture for $200,000, plus $18,000 for transportation and installation.
Robinson and his wife, Betsy, led and helped fund the Waco Sculpture Zoo, the official name for the about two dozen animal sculptures along the Brazos River’s western bank between Indian Spring Park and the Cameron Park Zoo entrance on University Parks Drive.
Bassoff sculpted five pieces for the sculpture zoo. Robinson said Bassoff later sent him photos of the completed “Road to Extinction” sculpture, but his plans with the Starrs to buy it for the zoo never materialized.
Then, a week before Starr died in September, Bassoff sent another email to Robinson.
“When Judge Starr passed away, I was discussing (the statue) with my wife, Betsy,” Robinson said. “We were standing there and thought, ‘Why don’t we buy this for Ken and Alice Starr?’”
Bassoff made the sculpture with the same materials used for the rhino and chimpanzee sculptures in the sculpture zoo: mesh steel armature and painted glass fiber reinforced concrete. The statue will be located in or near Cameron Park Zoo.
During a Waco City Council meeting last week, Creative Waco Director Fiona Bond said the statue is about 12 feet long, 9 feet high and 5 feet wide.
Waco Mayor Dillon Meek said the Robinsons play a “critical role” in the Waco community.
“Their commitment to public art is really something I hold in high esteem, and I’m really thankful for the improvement in our quality of life,” Meek said.
Robinson also largely funded the “Branding the Brazos” sculpture project in Indian Spring Park that includes several bronze statues of longhorns and cowboys on horseback arranged as if they are driving the cattle onto the Waco Suspension Bridge.