The LEGO Group has teamed up with visionary artist Hebru Brantley to create Fly Away Isles, a new immersive play installation in the heart of West Harlem that is inspired by the imagination of some of the community’s most creative minds: children.
Fly Away Isles is inspired by the playful, optimistic imaginations of local children from non-profit youth development organization, The Brotherhood Sister Sol (BroSis). Together with Hebru, the LEGO Group invited the children to use the ultimate creative medium, LEGO® bricks, to build and share their ideas for how they would help their community play more. The installation follows new research from the LEGO Group, which found that a third of parents (29%) in the U.S. say they don’t play enough as a family, with 82% of children living in New York wishing for more play*.
From a rocket soaring through clouds, to pyramids inspired by volcanos and stepping-stones that transport visitors between colourful islands, Hebru captured the creative optimism and boundless ideas of the children and turned their dreams into a reality. The new accessible, inclusive, and creative space takes visitors on a cosmic journey as they come together to experience the joy of seeing the world through the eyes of children.
Fly Away Isles opens in Johnny Hartman Plaza, 140 Hamilton Place, New York, on the LEGO brand’s 90th Anniversary, which the company is celebrating with its first ever World Play Day – a day dedicated to helping children, families and communities around the world find a moment of play. The installation will be open to the public until 5th November 2022, with the mural displayed until July 2023.
“Play is fundamental to the wellbeing and happiness of the whole family – it changes lives and brings us closer together, but we know families today feel they don’t play enough. Children can make the most mundane moments playful and are full of amazing ideas for how to rebuild the world around us for the better. So, it felt only fitting for the brand’s 90th Anniversary that we put kids in the driver seat to help us inspire and bring more play into the world,” said Alero Akuya, VP of Global Brand at the LEGO Group. “We hope the awesome new playscape Hebru and the children have created here in Harlem inspires those of all ages to experience the creativity, imagination and joy of play.”
Known for his vibrant use of color, Hebru uses a playful artistic approach to address important themes around nostalgia, power and hope in his work. He often challenges the viewer to see the world through the eyes of others and uses the adventures of his characters to explore how the world can be reimagined for the better. As well as a range of exciting play activities, the installation includes Hebru’s first mural in New York, adding to his celebrated work that lights up the streets of Chicago and other cities across the country.
Speaking about Fly Away Isles, Hebru commented: “My work often explores stories about the world I grew up in, so meeting the children from BroSis and hearing their vision for the world we live in now had a profound impact on the design of this play space. I wanted to create something that offered the local community a chance to come together regardless of their background or culture, leave the pressures of the busy world we live in behind and explore what the work looks like through the optimistic eyes of children.”
The Brotherhood Sister Sol is a social justice youth development organization, based in Harlem, that educates young people, organizes with them in pursuit of justice, and trains educators throughout the country. The LEGO Group has supported its work since 2020, helping the group run a leadership program for youth interested in environmental protection, and a food distribution program for families during the pandemic. The company has recently made an additional grant to further BroSis’ environmental education, creative learning and skills development programs for young people into 2023.
“When children are given the freedom to express their ideas, they develop skills like creativity and confidence that are crucial in navigating today’s complex world,” said Jason Warwin, Co-Founder of BroSis. “Created by our incredible BroSis youth members and Hebru, we hope having Fly Away Isles right here in our community encourages more children and families to come together, play, and experience the benefits and joy that it brings.”
LEGO play has long been the ultimate platform for creative expression, providing the tools for children to build anything they can imagine. In the company’s 90th year, the brand is celebrating the creativity of children, inspiring them to imagine a better world and showing how LEGO play helps them develop the skills they need to be successful in it.
Fly Away Isles is located in The Johnny Hartman Plaza outside The Brotherhood Sister Sol, 140 Hamilton Place, between W. 143rd and W. 144th Streets, New York, NY. It is just one of many play-packed global events, collaborations and surprises planned on World Play Day to helping families and communities around the world play more. Follow the hashtag #LEGO90years or visit LEGO.com/90-Years-Of-Play to join in the fun.
Fly Away Isles was installed in collaboration with NYC DOT Public Space. Hebru’s Asphalt Art mural is presented in partnership with NYC Department of Transportation’s Art Program.