Text: R. Collins
After opening for the 2020 season on April 3rd, Grand Rapids’ John Ball Zoo will kick off the summer with a unique, internationally travelling exhibition called BRICKLIVE Animal Paradise. Open May 1 through Sept. 7, the exhibit will include more than 40 life-sized sculptures of endangered animals that have been made from more than 1.8 million colorful building bricks.
BRICKLIVE Animal Paradise has visited three continents since its launch in 2018. This summer, the John Ball Zoo, tucked into the southwest neighborhoods of Grand Rapids, is one of three zoos in the United States—and the first in Michigan—to host the exhibition. Sculptures will be placed throughout the zoo and feature facts like the size of each, such as the 12-foot tall giraffe, and how many hours and building bricks were used to create them—more than 96,000 for the life-sized giraffe. The exhibit provides a learning experience steeped in S.T.E.A.M, or science, technology, engineering, art and math principles, which aim to inspire children to become creators, problem solvers, and innovators. Apart from BRICKLIVE’S technical intrigue, it will also serve to educate guests about the importance of preserving endangered species.
“The world’s wildlife has sadly declined in the last generation,” said Peter D’Arienzo, chief executive officer at John Ball Zoo, in a press release. “Oceans, ice caps, jungles, rivers, and forests are struggling to cope with the growing pressure upon them. With the ongoing environmental threats in the world we live in, it is exciting to host BRICKLIVE Animal Paradise and bring important animal, habitat facts and statistics to life in a fun brick-built environment.”
Many of the sculptures bring exotic animals to the zoo, but others include John Ball Zoo favorites that live on-site, like the snow leopard, African lion, and ring-tailed lemur. Important themes of conservation and human relationships with nature will also underscore an exhibit opening at the Grand Rapids Public Museum in June, called Sean Kenney’s Wild Connections Made with LEGO® Bricks. Wild Connections will feature simple toy block creations that explore animal endangerment, the balance of ecosystems, and other timely themes in unison with BRICKLIVE Animal Paradise.
The John Ball Zoo and Grand Rapids Public Museum will partner throughout the new exhibitions, creating a unified, full experience for the Grand Rapids community and its visiting families and guests. Apart from exciting exhibits like BRICKLIVE Animal Paradise, the zoo offers experiences from zip lines and camel rides to panning for gems. Guests can also break up a day-long excursion with treats like hand-dipped ice cream, mix-your-own slushies, and specialty pizzas from the eight refreshment and snack locations throughout the zoo.