Make us your home page
Instagram

His job at Art of the Brick? To keep your hands off the Lego sculptures

TAMPA — Ivan Crawford greets the long line of people that snakes around the sidewalk to the Art of the Brick. He has worked for four years at Amalie Arena, cleaning carpets. But these days, he has found a new calling. He is a herder of crowds.

Crawford is the first employee to greet guests to the free exhibit of Lego sculptures enjoying a run in Tampa through Sept. 4. In his booming voice, he beckons the group to huddle close and repeat after him:

"Don't touch the art!"

It's an impossible job, asking people not to touch things that beckon to be touched. He deputizes the kids and commands them to repeat the rule to their parents at the top of their lungs.

"Don't touch the art!"

"Kids love it when I put them in charge of the parents," said Crawford, 48. "And honestly, the parents have been touching it more than the kids."

People just can't help themselves. A common toy that has been around since the 1930s has been turned magical by artist Nathan Sawaya.

THE ARTIST: Nathan Sawaya left a law career to toy with art

The exhibit, which has traveled the world, has more than 100 sculptures, from a life-size T. Rex skeleton (80,020 bricks in all) to a recreation of the Mona Lisa. Sawaya's playful sculpture of a giant pencil balancing on its point and spelling FUN is a particular temptation.

"It's only hanging by a string and the middle will break," Crawford said. "We've had to put that back together many times."

With an average of 3,000 visitors a day since it opened in June, the exhibit last week hit the 75,000 mark. Though lines, especially on the weekends, often reach around the block, Crawford moves them in groups of 30 every two minutes and said he's never heard of anyone waiting more than 20 minutes to get in.

LEGOS, OH MY: Lego T-Rex and scores of other brick sculptures free to see in Tampa

The exhibit is sponsored by the Vinik Family Foundation, led by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and his wife, Penny. The foundation also sponsored another kid-friendly art exhibit last summer. The popular Beach Tampa ball pit drew 100,000 visitors to Amalie, plunging into an all-white abyss of more than 1.2 million plastic balls created by Snarkitecture, a New York design firm.

THE BEACH: Penny Vinik dreams up an Amalie Arena full of 'Beach' balls

Crawford was there for that, too, with an equally taxing job.

"I'm the one who kept that carpet white."

This exhibit, he said, seems to be more than just a playground. It has turned a toy into high art. There is, however, some play involved.

The exhibit ends in the "Brick Yard," the last room in the building with several bins of Lego bricks and tables for kids and their parents to design their own masterpieces. The amateurs have made Mario Bros. and Pac-Man, and someone made a volcano with lava coming out. The works get put on display in the Brick Yard.

Despite his penchant for teasing guests, telling them to get off the phone or threatening to photo bomb all their selfies, Crawford said the crowds have been easygoing, with "no flareups at all, not one."

Just don't touch the art.

Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at swynne@tampabay.com. Follow @SharonKWn.

 


 

 

MORE FUN EVENTS: Search By Date, Price and Neighborhood

 

 

FOLLOW: Things To Do Updates on Facebook

 

 

MUSIC: Concert news and reviews

 

 


 

If you go

Art of the Brick: The free exhibit is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays through Sept. 4 at 802 E Whiting St. in downtown Tampa. artofthebricktampa.com.

His job at Art of the Brick? To keep your hands off the Lego sculptures 08/10/17 [Last modified: Saturday, August 12, 2017 12:38am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Blake High grad Taylor Trensch lands lead role in 'Dear Evan Hansen' on Broadway

    Stage

    For those who saw Taylor Trensch grow up in Tampa, his rise from promising student to star is heartwarming and entirely predictable. In January, Trensch, 28, will be moving into the title role of Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway, one of the hottest tickets in theater.

    Taylor Trensch, a 2007 Blake High graduate, will play the title role in Broadway's Dear Evan Hansen. Courtesy of Frank Trensch.
  2. A scene from "Epiphany."
  3. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Oct. 22

    Events

    Clearwater Jazz Holiday: The Avett Brothers: The Avett Brothers, with their blend of folk, bluegrass and rock, lead the lineup. 1:30 p.m., Coachman Park, 301 Drew St., Clearwater. $16 per day, $45 reserved, $170 VIP. (727) 461-5200.

    AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 15:  (L-R)  Joe Kwon, Bob Crawford, Seth Avett, and Scott Avett of The Avett Brothers pose for a portrait at the "May It Last: A Portrait Of The Avett Brothers" Premiere - 2017 SXSW Conference and Festivals on March 15, 2017 in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SXSW)
  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Oct. 21

    Events

    Conor Oberst: The Bright Eyes mastermind will be joined by opener, the Felice Brothers. 8 p.m., Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland St., Clearwater. $30.50-$36. (727) 791-7400.

    Handout photo of Conor Oberst, performing Oct. 21 at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg. Credit: Grandstand Media
  5. McDonald's soft serve in Florida is made with handshakes and happy cows

    Consumer

    Floridians licked nine million McDonald's vanilla cones last year.

    Calves play with a rubber toy at the Milking R Dairy in Okeechobee, FL. Owners Sutton Rucks, Jr., and his wife Kris Rucks sell their milk to SouthEast Dairies cooperative, Edward Coryn of Dairy Mix in St. Petersburg buys it, transforms it into soft-serve ice cream base, and sells it to all the McDonald's. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times