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Art imitates prehistoric life at new Exploration Place exhibit

Dinosaurs in Motion at Exploration Place

The traveling exhibit opens on May 28 at Exploration Place. Guests can control 14 interactive, recycled metal dinosaur sculptures with exposed mechanics, inspired by actual fossils. (video by Jaime Green/The Wichita Eagle)
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The traveling exhibit opens on May 28 at Exploration Place. Guests can control 14 interactive, recycled metal dinosaur sculptures with exposed mechanics, inspired by actual fossils. (video by Jaime Green/The Wichita Eagle)

The new “Dinosaurs in Motion” exhibit at Exploration Place doubles as an educational experience and a kinetic art gallery.

Giant metal dinosaur sculptures tower over the room, some complete with sound and electric motors. Others move when people pull pulleys and push levers.

They were all constructed by North Carolina-based metalworker John Payne before he died in 2008.

Payne, who had previously lived in Chicago, “was inspired by the dinosaurs that he saw” at Chicago’s Field Museum, said Christina Bluml, Exploration Place’s director of marketing.

“He thought, ‘This is not enough, I want more,’ so he decided he was going to make them move.”

The traveling exhibit opens on May 28 at Exploration Place. Guests can control 14 interactive, recycled metal dinosaur sculptures with exposed mechanics, inspired by actual fossils. (video by Jaime Green/The Wichita Eagle)

The first dinosaurs that people encounter in the exhibit are the most basic – they move when people manually pull levers and push on the metal.

As people go further into the exhibit, however, the dinosaurs become more complex – each equipped with a video-game controller for people to use to control the dinosaur. This parallels Payne’s progression as an artist, Bluml said. His sculptures became more advanced later in his career.

People can control 14 dinosaurs total in the exhibit, which opens Saturday and will remain open until Labor Day.

Alongside each dinosaur is an informational panel about the technology used in that particular sculpture – whether it be simple machines or advanced robotics.

“It’s a different way of presenting information in a very creative way,” Bluml said.

Bluml said Exploration Place officials “are going to have to let people know it’s really loud, but in an exciting way.”

The aim of the exhibit, she said, is to educate people about kinetic principles while showing a lifelike representation of how dinosaurs actually moved.

The last time Exploration Place hosted a traveling dinosaur exhibit was in 2013, when “Dinosaurs Unearthed” came to town. Those dinosaurs, however, were the animatronic kind.

“This is very different from that one – we thought it was different enough to be interesting,” Bluml said. “Anytime we’ve had a dinosaur exhibit here it’s been very well received, very popular.”

Exploration Place plans to host special events tied to “Dinosaurs in Motion” this summer – notably, a “Drink with the Dinos” event on Aug. 12 intended for young adults, Bluml said. Tickets for the event – $12 for members and $15 for nonmembers – are available by calling 316-660-0620. Attendees must be 21 or older.

The museum is also offering an overnight adventure for ages 7-11 called “Sleep with the Dinos” July 15-16. Price is $55 for members and $70 for nonmembers.

Admission to the exhibit is included with regular admission to Exploration Place.

Dinosaurs in Motion

What: A traveling exhibit. People can manipulate 14 life-size dinosaurs while learning principles of kinetic motion.

Where: Exploration Place, 300 N. McLean Blvd.

Opens: Exhibit opens Saturday and runs through Labor Day.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

Admission to the museum: Adults, $9.50; ages 3-11, $6; 65 and older, $8. There is no additional fee to enter the exhibit.

Information: 316-660-0620; www.exploration.org

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