UAA | University Art Analysis — Lion calls UAA Geology Rock Garden home

Graphic by Michaeline Collins.

While walking around campus, students may encounter a large Ice Age lion, but don’t be alarmed by the 26,000-pound sculpture. 

“American Lion,” a giant limestone statue of an extinct species of lion, was sculpted by artist Meg White and resides in the UAA Geology Rock Garden on the east side of the Natural Science Building.

The “American Lion” statue resides in the UAA Geology Rock Garden outside the Natural Sciences Building. Photo courtesy of Meg White.

American lions, an exotic pantherine cat, lived in North America about 340,000-11,000 years ago. The American lion is the largest cat ever, standing four feet tall at the shoulder. 

White, known for her wildlife statutes, works from her Kentucky home. She first began working as a free-lance artist in 1987. In 1991, White was introduced to stone carving, which she continues to pursue today. She produces both small and large sculptures made from stone and occasionally bronze. 

“My work usually has a narrative focus, as most of the work is inspired by either myths, stories or concepts that define the commissioning agency,” according to White’s website. 

“American Lion” was commissioned by the Percent for Art program, a legislature passed in 1975 requiring 1% of the capital construction costs for public buildings to be used for art installation. 

Members of the art search committee in collaboration with the Alaska State Council on the Arts expressed interest in having an art piece of an Ice Age animal displayed in the garden, according to an article from UAA’s Green & Gold News. The committee wanted the animal to be old enough to have lived in the Alaska area when it was covered by glaciers.

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White handpicked a 40,000-pound block of Indiana limestone to carve “American Lion” out of. After sculpting, the statue weighed 26,000 pounds and required a 50,000-pound rig to install it. 

The statue incorporates an American lion perched on and partially encased in limestone. The lion’s face has incredible detail, as White intended to captured the majestic nature of the cat in the body position. 

“The hardest part of the UAA lion was carving the stone out between the lion’s head and the ledge roof,” White said in an interview on July 22, 2015, with UAA’s Green & Gold News

All difficulties aside, White created a sculpture that helps to draw viewers into the rock garden. 

“I respect the amount of effort the artist put into the sculpture,” freshman nursing major River Skaaren said.

For more information on “American Lion” and other sculptures by White, visit her website at

Have you seen art at UAA you want to know more about? Contact Gabby Vance at [email protected]