Editor's note: The Discovery Center Museum, Rockford, Il provided source material to Resource Library for the following article or essay. If you have questions or comments regarding the source material, please contact the Discovery Center Museum directly through either this phone number or web address:


The Art of the Brick

June 15 - September 9, 2007


(above: Nathan Sawaya, Globe)


Anyone who has ever snapped LEGO® bricks together needs to visit Discovery Center this summer. Opening June 15, 2007 is a whimsical and awe-inspiring new 35-piece exhibition The Art of the Brick, created from one million LEGO blocks. And the creator, Nathan Sawaya, will be at Discovery Center for the opening on June 15. Visitors can watch and interact with Sawaya as he works on his newest creation.

Nathan Sawaya has appeared on the Today show, Late Night with David Letterman, Donny Deutsch's Big Idea, and helped create a room in Extreme Home Makeover: Home Edition. This spring, Sawaya has been featured in Newsweek magazine, CNN.com's Pipeline, and CNN Headline News. Sawaya can build anything and always from traditional square and rectangular LEGO bricks.

The exhibition coming to Discovery Center is the first of its kind in the United States, and Rockford is only its second venue. Pieces include portraits of Lindsay Lohan and Alfred Hitchcock, three-dimensional men rising up out of piles of LEGO blocks, a globe, a rabbit, a giant sunflower, hand and Monopoly board, and even a tribute to John Lennon's "Imagine," to name a few.

During the June 15 opening, visitors can use LEGO bricks, as well as a variety of other building materials, to create their own works of art. Sawaya will be on hand from 10 am to 5 pm and 6 to 9 pm on June 15.


(above: Nathan Sawaya, Hand)


Previous showing of The Art of the Brick at Lancaster Museum of Art

A recent exhibit at the Lancaster Museum of Art in Pennsylvania, The Art of the Brick, drew an estimated 25,000 people during its 45-day run, according to museum officials. That is just 10,000 people shy of the 42-year-old museum's average annual attendance of 35,000 in a given year.

"Visitors came from as far as England and Canada to see this show," said Lancaster Museum of Art Executive Director Cindi Morrison. "On opening day, we had to open the doors five hours early to accommodate the hundreds of guests waiting in line outside. In my 28 years in this business, I have never seen a response to a show like this before."

Morrison attributed the overwhelming and record-shattering attendance to the popularity of Sawaya's art with kids young and old.

"Children are drawn to Nathan's art because it is made out of the same toys they play with at home and the adults love his work because it is visually stunning," said Morrison. "We included an interactive element that encouraged kids to build their own LEGO art. This allowed the adults another opportunity to be awe-struck by Nathan's sculptures while children were occupied at the building table trying their hand at their own LEGO models."

News coverage of the exhibit was record-breaking for the museum as well. Coverage of the installation was also international and included articles, reviews and critiques in publications such as Newsweek, Lancaster New Era, Patriot News, Baltimore Sun, The London Globe, BBC, Daily Express, Daily Star, Metro, Sunday Mirror and in publications as far reaching as South Africa and Romania. In addition, Philadelphia Inquirer Art Critic, Victoria Donohoe, called The Art of the Brick, "a must see show."

Nearly one million colorful LEGO pieces transformed into whimsical and awe-inspiring art filled the 1,000-square-foot von Hess Gallery at the Lancaster Museum of Art. Other activities that the museum hosted as part of the six-week exhibit included a LEGO Easter Egg Hunt for 150 families and an interactive Art Walk Weekend with Sawaya creating LEGO sculptures while thousands of peopled watched and asked the artist questions.


(above: Nathan Sawaya, Blue)


Biography of Nathan Sawaya

In 2004, Nathan Sawaya came to national attention as a talented artist when he won a nationwide search for a professional LEGO® Master Model Builder. Since then, he has been garnering accolades, as well as fans, with his colorful and whimsical artwork made entirely of the popular children's toy.

Born in Colville, Washington and raised in Veneta, Oregon, Sawaya has a unique artist's eye for creating awe-inspiring images and sculptures out of the square and chunky building blocks.

It was an expected beginning with an unexpected outcome. It started on Christmas 1978 when he unwrapped his first set of bricks. It wasn't long before the living room was transformed into "LEGO City" complete with miniature boats, firehouses, restaurants, mansions, skyscrapers, train stations and a lake. There were even brick helicopters hanging from the ceiling.

Sawaya's childhood dreams were always fun. He drew cartoons, wrote stories and perfected magic tricks. Of course much of his playtime centered on the LEGO City in his parent's living room. For more than twelve years the LEGO City flourished. This is where Sawaya's imagination soared and consequently, fine-tuned his future art form.

Many years and millions of bricks later Sawaya's creations are of a much grander scale.

A 7-foot-long replica of the Brooklyn Bridge, a life-size tyrannosaurus rex, a 6-foot-tall Han Solo frozen in carbonite, Curious George, Alfred Hitchcock and Lindsay Lohan are all now immortalized in plastic -- thanks to Sawaya.

His work is obsessively and painstakingly crafted and is both beautiful and playful. Sawaya's ability to transform LEGO bricks into something new, his devotion to scale and color perfection, the way he conceptualizes the action of the subject matter, enables him to elevate an ordinary toy to the status of art.

Sawaya's art form takes shape primarily in 3-dimensional sculptures and oversized mosaic portraits. Some of his favorite pieces of art include a huge black and white self portrait and a gigantic Monopoly box.

He continues to build daily with the brick medium while accepting commission work from individuals and corporations requesting works of art and tradeshows looking for unique, eye-catching exhibits.

His work is also in collections including:

Sawaya has also been featured on multiple media outlets including CBS's The Late Show with David Letterman, NBC's Today Show, MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, ESPN's Cold Pizza, ABC'S Jimmy Kimmel Live, Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times, Hollywood Reporter and Newsday.

(above: Nathan Sawaya, Gray)


(above: Nathan Sawaya, Red)


(above: Nathan Sawaya, Yellow)



The Discovery Center is located at 711 North Main Street Rockford, IL 61103. Please visit the musuem's website for hours and fees.


Editor's note: Resource Library readers may also enjoy further study of these articles and essays:


Additional text and images courtesy of Nathan Sawaya.

Links to sources of information outside of our web site are provided only as referrals for your further consideration. Please use due diligence in judging the quality of information contained in these and all other web sites. Information from linked sources may be inaccurate or out of date. TFAO neither recommends or endorses these referenced organizations. Although TFAO includes links to other web sites, it takes no responsibility for the content or information contained on those other sites, nor exerts any editorial or other control over them. For more information on evaluating web pages see TFAO's General Resources section in Online Resources for Collectors and Students of Art History.

Visit the Table of Contents for Resource Library for thousands of articles and essays on American art.

Copyright 2007 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.