Certified LEGO Professional and renowned artist Sean Kenney wanted to capture the historic architecture of Wrigley Field in his own way. He looked at several pictures of the stadium, observing the detail of its world-famous marquee, hand-operated scoreboard and luscious vine-covered walls.
Then Kenney set up in his New York City studio and laid the first of 57,960 LEGO bricks that eventually created an uncanny replica of the Cubs' historic stadium. His Wrigley piece, as well as several other baseball-themed LEGO creations, is now on display at the "Big Leagues, Little Bricks" exhibit that will run through the summer at the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory in Louisville, Ky.
"This has been a blockbuster for us," Louisville Slugger Museum executive director Anne Jewell said. "There's no doubt that this has been by far our most popular exhibit, to the point that we're thinking about every five to six years doing a refreshed LEGO baseball art show. People are loving it. They're having so much fun in the gallery."
Jewell thought of the idea for the exhibit while watching her son play with LEGOs during Christmas. She came to the realization that LEGOs had remained relevant for decades and building interesting designs with the bricks had helped the toy span generations. Then Jewell researched a way to connect LEGO bricks and baseball, and she came across Kenney's artwork.
"We worked with him to develop an original show, which had really never been done before, that uses LEGO bricks to construct some amazing baseball-focused artwork," Jewell said. "Then we started thinking about stadiums."
Kenney's work -- which also includes impressionistic portraits of Louisville Slugger players Buster Posey, Joey Votto and Derek Jeter in addition to smaller stadium replicas of PNC Park, Marlins Park and Yankee Stadium -- is the main attraction of the exhibit. But Jewell also brought in other pieces to juxtapose the classic feel of Wrigley and the modern element of the players.
Tim Kaebisch, a graduate of the Milwaukee School of Engineering, walked the corridors of Miller Park several times during the nine years it took him to build his over 35,000-brick replica of the Brewers' stadium. Jewell heard about the model, which is complete with a retractable roof, and thought the contemporary stadium would be a perfect fit next to Kenney's Wrigley project.
Jewell also found a previously constructed LEGO portrait of Cardinals legend Stan Musial, which the museum rented as a tribute to the former great who passed away in March.
"The Wrigley and Miller pieces are both real crowd pleasers, too, but the portraits are something that people are really drawn to because it's amazing to look at the photo of the player and then see how it looks when you get close in," Jewell asid. "It's almost like an impressionistic painting."
Kenney isn't a baseball fan, but he loves the challenge of downsizing life-size buildings to LEGO bricks and hand-picked Wrigley as the stadium he wanted to work on. Most incredibly, the conversion from real-life architecture to LEGO artwork doesn't start on a computer screen. There's no app or software for it. Kenney and the other 12 Certified LEGO Professionals in the world use their eyes and minds to configure how to craft their models. It's an artform that Jewell said she'd like to keep around baseball for the near future.
"People go in there and you just see the connection between generations and families," Jewell said. "It's a fun, bright show. Attendance-wise, it's a blockbuster for us."
Ethan Asofsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com.