Six-year-old Rhys Hetzel of Superior did not enjoy building with Legos.
While other kids, and many adults, enthusiastically dug into Lego kits to build model Death Stars, dragons, and dollhouses, Hetzel wasn’t interested. “He just didn’t like following the directions of the kits,” says Hetzel’s mom, Vanessa.
Then a few weeks ago, he played with a pile of his mom’s bricks from the 1970s and found the freedom to build without modern model kit instructions. “Once he had the giant pile, he went to town,” says Vanessa. “He’s making all these imaginative things because he’s an imaginative kid, and it’s been this cool kind of breakthrough in the last few weeks.”
His creations include a Rhino Racer, the four-wheeled car/rhinoceros with bat wings and turbo tanks. “I put the tusks on because I didn’t want any bad guys destroying it,” says Hetzel. “I put the Batman wings on it so it could fly away from its enemies.”
Hetzel hopes that his creation is selected to be part of Nathan Sawaya’s The Art of the Brick exhibition scheduled to open at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (DMNS) in June. Known for his elevation of Legos to modern art, Sawaya and his grand brick-based sculptures have broken exhibition attendance records around the globe. He is a Lego Master Model Builder and a Lego Certified Professional.
Leading up to the exhibition, Sawaya and the DMNS invite young creatives to build original works of Lego art for the chance to win a display spot in The Art of the Brick, as well as tickets to the show, and an autographed copy of Sawaya’s book, The Art of the Brick: A Life in Lego.
“The museum was looking for unique and fun ways to get the community involved in this exhibition and we thought this was a great way to do just that,” says Ian Miller, curator of The Art of the Brick exhibition. “We have not run a contest quite like this and have not included public art in an exhibition before either. We are excited to see how it all comes together.”
As families practice social distancing, there’s time to slow down, dig through a pile of multicolored plastic bricks, and imagine them forming a model mummy, geometric geode, a miniature Mars Rover, or anything nature and science related.
Hetzel built and submitted his Rhino Racer model on day one of his school’s closure (due to COVID-19). The Hetzel family sent DMNS’ contest announcement to his whole kindergarten class as an activity to try during social distancing.
Brothers Brixton Marokus, seven, and Dublin Marokus, nine, of Denver, took three days to create a whole environmental scene titled “A River Runs Through It: A Study of a Riparian Area.”
“Nature was the first inspiration, and then creating a natural habitat,” say the Marokus boys. “We chose an environment around rivers and streams and areas around water [that] are very diverse.”
Their landscape features a cabin, treehouse, garden (with vegetables), chicken coop, kayak, waterfall, and alligator. The Marokus boys are excited to hear contest results and see Nathan Sawaya’s work up close.
Need to Know: Deadline for The Art of the Brick contest submissions is May 15. There are four age categories with a winning artist or group of artists in each: ages three to five, six to nine, 10 to 14, and 15 to 18. Models can be no larger than 18 inches in height, width, and depth and cannot depict licensed characters. See the contest form for more details.