LEGO® your cares and connect with nature

See the giant LEGO® sculpture exhibit at the NC Arboretum
By Carol Viau | Aug 05, 2016
Photo by: Carol Viau THE WHIMSY OF LEGO  — Visitors to the 'Nature Connects, Art with LEGO®' exhibit at the NC Arboretum will find plenty of photo ops, as these visitors did in the Butterfly Quilt Garden, showcasing the Giant White Lily sculpture.

When LEGO brick artist Sean Kenney creates sculptures, he does it in a big way. Visitors to the North Carolina Arboretum are in for a treat with the NC Arboretum’s new exhibit, “Nature Connects, Art with LEGO® Bricks.”

The exhibit showcases Kenney’s latest collection of 13 nature-themed and larger-than-life LEGO sculptures, made from 370,000 LEGO bricks. A stroll through the arboretum’s gardens is a great multi-generational activity, with something to delight all ages.

An estimated 55,000 people visited the NC Arboretum’s 2013 exhibit of Kenney’s LEGO work. But, the 2016 exhibit features new sculptures — the only returning piece from the previous exhibit is the beautiful Hummingbird, made of 31,565 LEGO pieces. The 626-pound LEGO Hummingbird is displayed outside the front door of the Baker Center. While in the Baker Center, pick up the easy-to-carry exhibit guide and map of the installation sites.

The other 12 sculptures are new to visitors and are, quite naturally, focused on nature. See the magnificent Monarch at Milkweed, made of 60,549 LEGO pieces, in the gardens outside the Baker Center’s upper doors. It’s a showpiece not to be missed.

The exhibit does a good job of placing the sculptures in their natural environment. The Pileated Woodpecker sculpture is up in a tree, the Duck with Ducklings sculpture is on the edge of a pond, and the Kneeling Gardener is ‘working’ in the gardens behind the Education Center.

Visitors to the arboretum and the exhibit will enjoy a leisurely stroll through the gardens and great photo ops. The Giant Praying Mantis, next to the Education Center, draws a large crowd of admirers, as does the stately Bald Eagle, perched near the top of the waterfall and Bonsai garden. There is even a face cut-out photo op LEGO board depicting a rabbit being chased by a fox, which makes for fun pictures.

It’s clear Kenney understands nature in the Snake and Mouse sculpture and the whimsical Birds vs. Squirrels at Feeder sculpture.

Well-designed signs at each installation give information on the number of LEGO bricks used, dimensions of the work and information on the animal or item depicted.

The Kneeling Gardener sign lets viewers know that gardeners have a longer life expectancy that average, because “Gardening reduces stress and uses a full range of motion to keep muscles active and healthy.”

“Due to its size, uniqueness and magnitude, Nature Connects is a one-of-a-kind exhibit that truly appeals to all ages, groups and interests,” said George Briggs, executive director of The North Carolina Arboretum. “Sean Kenney does a terrific job of bringing together art and nature using an iconic toy, the LEGO brick, to help connect visitors with the natural world. We are excited about the many new pieces added to the collection.”

Based in New York City, Kenney was the first of (now) 15 LEGO Certified Professionals in the world.

The NC Arboretum’s theme for 2016 is “Year of the Pollinator,” focusing on the crucial role of pollinators in nature, and the Nature Connects exhibit is a natural extension of that theme.

“In conjunction with the NC Arboretum’s annual Monarch Butterfly Day, Sept. 17, the Arboretum will host a special Nature Connects Build Day,” said Whitney Smith, arboretum’s marketing and PR manager, “Participants are invited to create their own LEGO brick sculptures and learn more about the monarch butterfly and ways to contribute to the species’ conservation and preservation.”

The Nature Connects, Art with LEGO® exhibit is already a hit with young and old alike.

“Wow — 370,000 LEGOs,” one young visitor said, jumping for joy.

See Nature Connects, Art with LEGO® through Oct. 23.

Exhibit admission is free for the LEGO sculptures and the Monarch Butterfly Day. The standard arboretum parking fee ($12 per vehicle) applies for non-membersThe North Carolina Arboretum is at 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville. For information, visit or call (828) 665-2492.