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“Snake!” we heard from a dark, canopied corner of the garden, “It’s gonna eat it!” Sure, we know there are no snakes in Hawaii. After all, we were in National Tropical Botanical Garden’s McBryde Garden, on the very snake-free South Shore of Kauai. But stranger things have happened, so with our fight or flight reflex on the ready we approached the commotion.

It was indeed a snake; coiled, motionless, and ready to strike a poor, unsuspecting mouse—made out of LEGOs. About forty-seven hundred LEGO pieces were used to create this slithery scene of a coral snake sizing up its next meal. It is just one of more than a dozen lifelike sculptures scattered across Lawai Valley for McBryde Garden’s “Nature Connects” exhibit, created by New York-based artist Sean Kenney.

Nature Connects is an award winning traveling art exhibit—part educational platform, part artistic expression. In the same way LEGO pieces interconnect, the artist is magnifying the interconnected balance in nature, like the important relationships between plants and insects and the connections between different animal species and their families.*

Photo of a Lego feature at the McBryde Garden

In fact, more than a hundred of Mr. Kenney’s sculptures are making their way through zoos, gardens, and parks all across the U.S. Luckily, Kauai’s own McBryde Garden in Poipu is the summer home to fourteen of his nature-themed sculptures. Nearly four hundred thousand individual LEGO pieces were used for McBryde’s sculptures, ranging from life-sized ducks and people, to gargantuan birds, butterflies, and snakes (oh my!). Each creation is painstakingly detailed, like the pollen granules of a monolithic lily and a bluebird sundial that keeps pretty accurate time.

The new exhibit actually made us feel a little more connected to McBryde Garden. Hunting for LEGO treasures carried us into areas we hadn’t been before; taking in views and perspectives we’d never considered; stopping to notice the delicate dance of orchid blooms; spotting an endangered red-bill duck, which has feet more like a chicken’s than a duck.

It wasn’t until after our tour that we discovered another neat connection between LEGO and McBryde Garden. Right around the same time the Denmark-based LEGO toy company first started in the mid-1930s, Robert Allerton first explored Lawai Valley. A wealthy philanthropist, he went on to purchase, cultivate and bestow the land, now known as Allerton and McBryde Gardens, to NTBG. It took about eighty years for LEGO and McBryde Garden to finally connect. We think it was well worth the wait.

The best way to experience Nature Connects is in person, but do it soon. The exhibit ends July 10, 2016. And be sure to bring some bug spray. The LEGOs may not bite, but the mosquitos are all too real.


Photo of scenic ocean view from high-up, overlooking a field


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