This summer, visitors to The Morton Arboretum in Chicago’s western suburbs will encounter a series of ingenious nature-themed sculptures crafted from more than a half a million LEGO bricks when the award-winning exhibition Nature Connects: Art with LEGO bricks by Sean Kenney returns.
From May 24 through Sept. 15, visitors of all ages will enjoy the craftsmanship of 15 displays created entirely from LEGO bricks, found along pathways through the Arboretum’s east side. New highlights of the 2019 exhibition include a bee midflight, an oak tree sprouting from an acorn, and a pileated woodpecker with a bright crimson crest. The imaginative displays are the work of Kenney, a New York–based artist and “professional kid.”
Visitors will also see:
- An eight-foot-long dragonfly with a bright pink body and wingspan to match
- A peacock showing off its magnificent blue-and-green plumage
- A hummingbird drinking nectar from an orange trumpet flower
- A bonsai tree, its leafy canopy topping a small green hillside
- A grandfather gardening with his grandchild, watering can in hand, alongside a giant red wheelbarrow that doubles as a planter
- A monarch butterfly sitting on top of a pink milkweed plant
- A giant, dangling corn spider with outstretched black-and-orange legs
- An almost life-size family of brown deer, including a buck, doe and their fawn
- An enormous purple-and-white pansy that has caught the attention of a pollinator
- A serene-looking sea turtle carrying a finch on its shell
- Cardinals enjoying a birdbath while an uninvited squirrel tries to join the pair
- An ant hill that offers a look at underground tunnels, with face cutouts that allow visitors to play the part of the industrious insects
“Like the LEGO bricks used to create these intricate displays, everything in nature is connected,” said Sue Wagner, vice president of education and information. “Through Sean Kenney's colorful interpretations of nature's creations, this exhibition will inspire and encourage visitors to more deeply appreciate the relationships found in the natural world.”
Visitors can also take part in Nature Connects–themed programming at the Arboretum. Kids and families can create their own LEGO brick masterpieces in the Arboretum’s Children’s Garden from May through September, while adults can learn more about the animals, insects and plants featured in the exhibition with the June 11 program, The Nature Behind Nature Connects. An updated schedule of events will be available closer to the exhibition's opening, at mortonarb.org.
Visitors can also take part in themed programming all summer long at the Arboretum.
LEGO Brick Play
Children and families can build their own LEGO masterpieces daily in the Children’s Garden from May through September. This self-guided hands-on discovery activity will foster kids’ imagination as they find inspiration in nature.
The Nature Behind Nature Connects
The June 11 program geared to those 21 and older explores the nature behind the exhibition’s LEGO brick sculptures. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn about the ecological significance of oak trees and about the ongoing restoration work that addresses the many challenges oaks face in the urban environment. This guided walking tour will also feature discussions of the epic migration of the monarch butterfly across North America and of local efforts to save the endangered Blanding’s turtle. The program will include one drink.
Nature Beyond the Binary
Taking place June 29, this program will showcase the many presentations and changes found in plants and animals. From intersex worms to flowers that transition sex overnight, nature is nonbinary, and an inclusive walking tour will reveal the outdoor world as representative of myriad identities and expressions.
Grown-Up Play Date
Adults can relive the fun, carefree days of their childhood at the Arboretum’s Grown-Up Play Date taking place in the Children’s Garden on July 26. In addition to enjoying the features of the four-acre garden, attendees can create imaginative sculptures of their own using LEGO bricks as well as gigantic building blocks.
Nature Connects first appeared at The Morton Arboretum in 2015, returning this year with three new displays. In addition to Nature Connects, visitors can enjoy the popular Troll Hunt exhibition, on display through the end of 2019. Visitors are invited on a journey through the forest to hunt for six colossal trolls crafted from reclaimed wood by Danish artist Thomas Dambo. In searching the Arboretum for these trolls, most of which measure 15 to 30 feet tall—one troll reclining on his back is a striking 60 feet long—visitors will discover the role of these mysterious creatures as protectors of trees and the natural beauty that surrounds them. Both are free with Arboretum admission.