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Visitors to The North Carolina Arboretum, a 434-acre public garden located just south of Asheville, will enjoy a fun, toy-filled outdoor adventure this summer at the Arboretum’s newest exhibit, Nature Connects®: Art with LEGO® Bricks. Originally set to open in May but delayed due to the COVID-19 crisis, the exhibit will open July 1 with an extended schedule and remain on display through Nov. 1.

Composed of nearly 500,000 LEGO bricks, Nature Connects includes 16 nature-inspired sculptures constructed on a larger-than-life scale by renowned artist Sean Kenney. Featuring a five-foot tall colorful peacock, giant dragonfly, bonsai tree and massive monarch butterfly, this family-friendly exhibit draws inspiration from the living world and combines play with science to create an innovative intersection of education, entertainment and the environment.

“Due to its size, uniqueness and magnitude, Nature Connects is a one-of-a-kind exhibit that truly appeals to all ages, groups and interests,” said George Briggs, executive director of The North Carolina Arboretum. “Artist Sean Kenney does a terrific job of bringing together art and nature using an iconic toy, the LEGO Brick, to help connect guests with the natural world. We look forward to hosting this new edition of the exhibit at the Arboretum and are excited about the many new sculptures added to the collection.”

Upon arrival to the Arboretum, guests are invited to view a special Nature Connects map, which will help guide them throughout the gardens and discover the LEGO Brick sculptures. Daytime admission to Nature Connects is free; however, a standard $16 parking fee applies to non-Arboretum members. For more information about the Arboretum or Nature Connects, please visit ncarboretum.org or call 828-665-2492.

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ArborEvenings featuring Nature Connects

As dusk settles, Nature Connects will be brought to light as part of the Arboretum’s ArborEvenings summer after- hours series. This year, the Arboretum will be extending the dates and times of ArborEvenings. The event will be held every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, July through September, from 8 to 11 p.m. (some exclusion dates apply, please check website for details). Visitors will sip and stroll through the Arboretum’s beautiful gardens and discover the illuminated LEGO Brick sculptures while listening to live music amongst flowers and friends. Sweet and savory snacks are available for purchase from the Arboretum’s Bent Creek Bistro along with alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. A special admission price of $5 per person is required, collected at the door. Parking fees do not apply. Proceeds from ArborEvenings will support The North Carolina Arboretum Society, the Arboretum’s 501(c)(3) non-profit that provides financial assistance to further support the Arboretum’s mission and educational programming.

ArborEvenings will also raise a special glass this year to those who are affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Ten percent of all proceeds from this year’s event series will be donated directly to MANNA FoodBank, the Feeding America food bank serving over 100,000 people facing hunger across 16 counties of Western North Carolina.

Members of The North Carolina Arboretum Society will also have the opportunity to attend a special “Membership Connects” ArborEvenings event on the third Wednesday of each month, July 15, August 19 and September 16, from 8 to 11 p.m. This event is only open to Arboretum Society Members and their accompanied guests; entry fees will be waived with a valid membership card. To further support MANNA FoodBank, the Arboretum will have a food collection bin on-site for Arboretum members to donate to at the “Membership Connects” nights. A list of recommended foods can be found on the Arboretum’s website, ncarboretum.org/events.

“The Arboretum is proud to support the hard work of MANNA FoodBank and their efforts to help relieve so many in our community who are in need of food assistance,” said Briggs. “We hope that our Nature Connects exhibit and ArborEvenings event series will provide a special place of comfort, joy and nutrition during these times.”

For more information on Nature Connects and ArborEvenings,  visit ncarboretum.org.

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