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Arts: Setting up new Brookgreen exhibit isn’t child’s play

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Lego sculpture is coming to Brookgreen Gardens.

A series of colorful Lego insects and animals assembled by artist Sean Kenney will be placed throughout the Brookgreen zoo for an exhibit that opens March 5 and runs to Labor Day.

“It’s one of those things you sort of stumbled across, like you do with many things in life,” said Brookgreen CEO Bob Jewell. He said he found out about the Lego exhibit from one of his members who had seen it in North Carolina. “I had no idea how strong the Lego brand was,” Jewell said. “It’s one of the top brands in the world. People recognize the name and it transcends generations. Kids love Legos; parents love Legos; and grandparents love Legos. All in all, it’s a good, positive situation.”

Jewell sent employees to check out the Lego exhibit. “That, coupled with our research, determined it was a perfect fit for us because it’s educational, it’s related to nature and there are lots of dots we can connect based on the Brookgreen mission. And we have a perfect spot for it in our zoo.”

Jewell said he expects the Lego exhibit to draw new visitors to Brookgreen, much like Nights of a Thousand Candles in December. “The season is perfect for us,” he said. “It takes in April, one of our busiest months, and runs to Labor Day. We actually got an extra month, March, because of a quirk in the schedule.”

Brookgreen is treating the Lego art as it would any other sculpture exhibit. “The sculpture collections people are very involved in unloading and placing it and conserving it,” Jewell said. “Art comes in many forms and materials.”

The 13 pieces on display required nearly a half-million Lego bricks, which Kenney assembled in his studio in Brooklyn, N.Y., with the help of a 17-person staff, including model-makers and welders who create the metal armatures that hold some of the sculptures together.

The Lego collection arrived in heavy wooden crates this week. As pieces were unpacked, they were carefully moved to prearranged spots with new brick support bases. A dragonfly was placed near a pond with ducks and geese. A butterfly went near the butterfly house, of course. A peacock with a tail nearly 7 feet wide is one of the more eye-catching pieces.

Kenney is one of the few certified Lego artists in the world, according to Jewell. The fact that he has found inspiration in nature, makes him perfect for Brookgreen. Kenney began recreating insects and animals in 2012 for an exhibit, “Nature Connects” in Ames, Iowa. It was far more expensive and laborious than anyone imagined, so a tour seemed to be a natural extension. Botanical gardens and arboretums began lining up for the exhibit that eventually made its way to Brookgreen. Jewell has no doubt Kenney’s works are art. “It’s exceeding my expectations,” he said.

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