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. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Oct. 20

    Events

    Tim McGraw and Faith Hill: It's been 20 years since the country music star couple started touring together, first on McGraw's solo tours and then on their record-breaking Soul2Soul tours. Now, ten years after the last Soul2Soul tour they're back on the road with opener, LoCash. 7:30 p.m., Amalie Arena, 401 …

    Handout photo of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill performing in New Orleans on their 2017 Soul2Soul World Tour. Credit: Becky Fluke
  2. Dia de los Muertos celebration in Dunedin canceled this year by hurricane

    Events

    Chalk up one more closure to Hurricane Irma: The huge Dia de los Muertos Fiesta originally planned for Saturday in Dunedin has been scrapped for what would have been its 25th year.

    At last year’s Dia de los Muertos, Casa Tina owner Tina Marie Avila (crouching) shows her “Ofrenda,” or Day of the Dead alter. What would have been the 25th annual Dia de los Muertos Fiesta on Saturday had to be canceled this year because of Hurricane Irma. The folk festival will be back next year.
JIM DAMASKE   |   Times (2016)
  3. 'Only the Brave' honors sacrifice of front line firefighters amid California wildfires

    Movies

    No one knew that the release date for the forest firefighting movie Only the Brave' would coincide with one of the most destructive wildfires in California history.

    Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller), Chris MacKenzie (Taylor Kitsch), plan to do the backburn at the Chiricahua Mtn. fireline in  ONLY THE BRAVE. (Columbia Pictures)
  4. 'The Snowman' has a star-studded cast based on a blockbuster murder novel, but it's a mess

    Movies

    Mr. Alfredson, you could have saved it. We gave you all the tools — a star-studded cast, a blockbuster best-selling Scandinavian murder novel by Jo Nesbo, and three time Oscar winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker. So why is The Snowman such a jumbled nonsensical mess?

    Michael Fassbender in "The Snowman." (Universal Pictures)  1213107
  5. Find every new Shine festival mural in St. Petersburg with this map and photos

    Visual Arts

    The leaves don't really change in Florida, but go outside and it's clearly that time of year when St. Petersburg's walls get a little more colorful.

    There are 14 new murals up in St. Petersburg for the Shine Mural Festival. [Eve Edelheit | Staff]