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Brookgreen Gardens: Wildlife rendered in new medium – Lego blocks

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Although they look like toys, there is nothing childlike about the exhibit coming to Brookgreen Gardens next spring, except perhaps in the sense of wonder they inspire.

Nature Connects features 12 installations of wildlife sculpture created from Lego blocks. “It’s a big exhibit. They’re giant Lego sculptures,” said Helen Benso, the vice president for marketing at Brookgreen.

The exhibit was commissioned by the Reiman Gardens at Iowa State University. The sculptures are the work of Sean Kenney. Based in New York, he was the first “Lego certified professional,” licensed by the Danish company to use its products in commercial ventures.

The exhibit opened in 2012 and has toured botanical gardens and zoos around the country. It drew Brookgreen’s attention because part of its strategic plan calls for developing programs for families with young children. “We’re always looking for new things to do,” Benso said. She spent a year arranging for Nature Connects to visit.

The effort got a boost when Cheryl Newby, the art gallery owner, saw the exhibit at the North Carolina Arboretum. She told Bob Jewell, the Brookgreen president, he needed to see it.

“It’s just incredible what they have built with Legos,” she said.

Nearly half a million blocks were used in the exhibit. The largest piece, a bison, has over 45,000 blocks.

“It is beyond striking,” Newby said. Her gallery features the work of sculptors who also have pieces in the Brookgreen collection. She thinks Nature Connects will be a good fit. “This is definitely sculpture. The medium is Lego,” she said.

The exhibit proved so popular, Reiman Gardens commissioned three versions. The gardens’ director stepped down last year to run the Nature Connects exhibits.. Brookgreen is leasing the exhibit from Reiman. They will be displayed near the Lowcountry Zoo starting April 8 and running through Sept. 5.

Brookgreen will develop children’s activities and education programs around the exhibit. “It’s all about education,” Benso said.

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