The LEGO® brick-themed exhibit, Nature Connects®: Art with LEGO bricks by Sean Kenney, is returning to The Morton Arboretum on Friday, May 24, 2019 and will run through Sunday, September 15, 2019. The exhibit consists of fifteen displays that are comprised entirely of LEGO® bricks, which will be found alongside pathways on the eastern side of The Morton Arboretum. The sculptures are comprised of over 500,000 LEGO® bricks.
For the return of the exhibit, it will include three new sculptures: a bee in midflight, an acorn sprouting into an oak tree, and a pileated woodpecker with a crimson crest. It will also include an eight-foot-long dragonfly; a peacock; a hummingbird drinking the nectar of an orange trumpet flower; a bonsai tree; a grandfather gardening with his grandchild with a red wheelbarrow close at hand; a monarch butterfly; a giant corn spider; a not-quite-life-sized deer family that includes a buck, a doe, and their fawn; a purple-and-white pansy; a sea turtle with a finch on its shell; cardinals in a birdbath; and an anthill.
“Like the LEGO bricks used to create these intricate displays, everything in nature is connected,” stated Sue Wagner, Vice President of Education and Information at The Morton Arboretum. “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 Morton Arboretum. Children and families can build their own LEGO® brick masterpieces in The Morton Arboretum’s Children’s Garden from May through September, while adults can learn more about the flora and fauna featured in the exhibit with the June 11th program, “The Nature Behind Nature Connects.” LEGO® Brick Play will be in the Children’s Garden daily at 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. (weather permitting). The “Nature Behind Nature Connects” will be on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on the Gingko Terrace, Visitor Center. Students will have the opportunity to learn about the ecological significance of oak trees and the ongoing restoration work that addresses the many challenges oaks face in urban environments. This guided walking tour will also feature discussions about the epic migration monarch butterflies across North America and local efforts to save the endangers Blanding’s turtle. This class is for adults (twenty-one-years-of-age-and-over) and will include one (alcoholic) drink. The bar opens at 6:45 p.m. The fee for this class is $34 for non-members and $29 for members. [The non-member fee covers admission to The Morton Arboretum.] Dress appropriately for an event that takes place in its entirety outdoors. The size of the class is limited to thirty.
“Nature Beyond the Binary” will be on Saturday, June 29, 2019 from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. The Morton Arboretum stated, “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 identifies and expressions.” The fee is $20 for non-members and $16 for members.
Adult Fans of LEGO® (A.F.O.L.) note that there will be a “Grown-Up Play Date” on Friday, July 26, 2019 in the four-acre Children’s Garden from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Attendees must be adults (twenty-one-years-of-age or over). They can build sculptures with LEGO® bricks and “gigantic building blocks.” The event will include one complimentary drink, samples of botanically-sourced drinks, and live music. Attendees can purchase additional drinks, as well as dinner.
An updated schedule of events will be available closer to when the exhibit opens via www.mortonarb.org. Anyone interested in signing up for these events can do so on the dedicated Webpages or by calling (630) 719-2468 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
LEGO® brick merchandise will be sold at The Arboretum Store in conjunction with the exhibit. These include Sean Kenney’s book Cool Creations in 101 Pieces. The exhibit will be covered by Arboretum admission.
The exhibit is comprised of exactly 501,158 LEGO® bricks. Sean Kenney and his team spent 4,570 man-hours building the sculptures. The peacock sculpture took the greatest number of bricks: 68,827. Kenney and his team spent 625 man-hours on the construction of this sculpture alone. The tallest sculpture is the butterfly on a milkweed plant, which stands seven feet tall, and the smallest is the pileated woodpecker, which is less than two feet tall. The deer family is 80% of the size of real-life buck, doe, and fawn.
Sean Kenney is from New York. Since 2012, Nature Connects has toured North America, Europe, and Asia. The Morton Arboretum first displayed Nature Connects in 2015. In addition to using LEGO® bricks to make sculptural exhibits and children’s books, Sean Kenney also uses them to make portraiture and commissioned sculptures.
Meanwhile, the Troll Hunt exhibit, which I wrote about last year, will continue to be on display through the end of the year. [Parents may want to watch the Norwegian found footage mockumentary/horror film Trollhunter (2010) before or after taking the kids to see the troll sculptures.] Visitors search for six enormous troll sculptures Danish artist Thomas Dambo carved from reclaimed wood. They range from fifteen feet tall to thirty feet tall, and one reclining troll is sixty feet long.
The Morton Arboretum was the brainchild of Joy Morton (1855-1934), the founder of the Morton Salt Company and eldest son of U. S. Agriculture Secretary Julius Sterling Morton (1832-1902). [J. Sterling Morton High School District, headquartered in Cicero, Illinois was named in honor of him.] Julius Sterling Morton had created the civic holiday of Arbor Day in Nebraska. In 1921, when he was sixty-five year old, Joy Morton began the process of converting his estate in what is now west suburban Lisle, Illinois, Thornhill, into an arboretum. The Thornhill estate became the core of what is now a 1,700-acre arboretum, home to about 3,300 kinds of living plants. For this project, he sought advice from Dr. Charles Sprague Sargent (1841–1927), Director of The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University for fifty-four years. Joy Morton’s conversion of his Thornhill estate into the Morton Arboretum should be seen in the context of both his father’s devotion to trees and his own membership in the Chicago Plan Commission.
Admission is $15 for adults (ages eighteen-to-sixty-four) ($10 on Wednesdays); $13 for senior citizens (ages sixty-five-and-over) ($9 on Wednesdays); $10 for children (ages two-to-seventeen) ($7 on Wednesdays); and free for babies one-year-of-age-and-under. Admission covers parking. The Morton Arboretum is free year-round for active-duty military servicemen and servicewomen.
The Morton Arboretum is open every day of the year. It opens daily at 7:00 a.m. and closes at sunset. The Visitor Center is open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in January and February; 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in March and April; 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. from May through October; and again from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in November and December. It is closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day and closes early at 3:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Restrooms in the West Pavilion in the Visitor Center are open from 7:00 a.m. to sunset.
Members have exclusive access to the Children’s Garden from 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. It is open to from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. from March to October (6:00 p.m. on Thursdays) and 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. November to February. The Children’s Garden may close temporarily in bad weather. It is closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day and closes early at 3:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve. The Maze Garden is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to sunset.
The Arboretum Store is open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in January and February; from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in March and April; from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. from May through October; and from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in November and December. It is closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day and closes early at 3:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
The Plant Clinic is open from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. from April through October and from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. from November through March. It is closed on New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and the day after Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve.
The Ginkgo Restaurant is open daily from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. during the workweek and is open for breakfast from 9:00 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. on weekends. It is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.
The Ginkgo Café is open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. November through February, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. March and April, and from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. May through October. It is closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day and closes early at 3:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
The Sterling Morton Library is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays. It is closed on Sundays, Mondays, New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve.
The Thornhill Education Center is open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. It is closed on New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day (and the Friday after Thanksgiving Day), Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve. The Education Registration office phone number is (630) 719-2468.
The Founder’s Room, located at the Thornhill Education Center, is open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. It is intermittently closed for rental events.
Click here for more information about admission and hours. The address is 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle, Illinois 60532. The phone number is (630) 968-0074.
 Riva Feshbach, “Morton Arboretum,” The Encyclopedia of Chicago. James R. Grossman, Ann Durkin King, and Janice L. Reiff, editors. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press (2004), p. 543