This art just clicks!

New traveling exhibit hits Botanica

Written by Amy Palser

The self-described “biggest Lego fan in the world” is bringing his larger-than-life sculptures to Botanica in Wichita this summer. Visitors young and old will be amazed by New York artist Sean Kenney’s delicate yet deceptively sturdy structures made entirely from Lego bricks, replicating everything from goldfinches at a bird feeder to a life-sized bison and her calf.

“Nature Connects: Art with Lego Bricks” will be on display May 11 through Sept. 19 at Botanica. The exhibit kicks off for the general public at 6 p.m. on May 10 with an opening night party featuring music, kids’ activities, bar, and fireworks display at 8:45 p.m. For a super sneak peak, tickets are available to a VIP event May 9 that will include food bites and drinks throughout the garden for adults only.

“We’re just super excited,” said Kathy Sweeney, Botanica’s director of special events. “We feel like it speaks to all ages. You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy this.”

The exhibit is Botanica’s first ever traveling national exhibit. It has appeared at zoos and botanical gardens across the United States, Europe and Australia. The 15 sculptures spread throughout Botanica’s 18 acres are made up of over 330,000 bricks. Among the sculptures are a rose that stands almost 7 feet high, a larger-than-life swallowtail butterfly and even a gardener working the soil. “Every one of the 15 sculptures has a major sponsor from generous companies and families here in Wichita,” said Jamee Ross, director of development.

The exhibit as a whole is sponsored by Emprise Bank. “As a longtime partner of Botanica, we're thrilled to help bring artist Sean Kenney's ‘Nature Connects’ exhibit to our community as the presenting sponsor,” said Emprise Bank chairman and CEO Matt Michaelis. “His work is awe-inspiring. The art installations will be a complement to the gardens and something every visitor will enjoy with amazement.”

Kenney has said that although he held a desk job before becoming a sculptor, he always loved building with Legos as a kid. “I’m kind of the biggest Lego fan in the world. I don’t work for the company, I’m just their best customer,” he says in a video on Botanica’s website, botanica.org, where you can watch him build a structure in time lapse.

Kenney visited Botanica to help plan the exhibit and will send two members of his crew to do the four-day installation, with the help of six Botanica staff members. “We had wanted this exhibit for the last four years and we’ve been working with Sean on and off,” Sweeney said. “We have a bunch of new events — both family and adult — that will be related to the exhibit.”

Along with the sculptures, Kenney will be sending 30,000 loose Lego pieces so Botanica visitors can build their own masterpieces in Botanica’s Play Pavilion. Sweeney said the pavilion will house four Lego tables, two of which are being built especially for Botanica by a Wichita Lego fan (check out @legoictdad on Instagram). Kids will be able to display their Lego creations on a gallery wall and on shelves, and visitors are encouraged to share their builds on social media with the hashtag #buildwithbotanica.

Botanica executive director Marty Miller said that after working for a number of years to feature the “Nature Connects” exhibit, he and the Botanica staff are excited for the public to experience it. “We feel it is a great addition to the garden and are thrilled to debut it to the Wichita community.”

For more information on “Nature Connects: Art with Lego Bricks,” and exhibit-related events and activities, visit botanica.org.

 
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