Andy Grover has been getting a lot of buzz as the Rhode Island LEGO artist and for good reason. The Providence born-and-bred resident’s constructs in interlocking plastic bricks have garnered publicity, commission work, and grants, but there’s a strong message behind his playful medium: layers of classism and racism revealed in which structures are revered or neglected by the powers that be.
“Public school buildings are the most underrated part of our cultural fabric,” he says. “Why aren’t places like Cranston East considered to be landmark structures when The Breakers is?” he says. “I don’t think that question is as clear cut as it might seem. They’re both beautiful and historic. Did somebody rich have to live there, is that what you mean?”
When Alice Briney-Rockswold, literacy coach at Carl G. Lauro Elementary School, approached Grover to realize her workplace in LEGOs, it aligned with his mission perfectly. As with all projects, Grover spent much time at the expansive 1927-built school originally named Kenyon Street School, taking many dozens of photographs from each angle. “You have to decide what makes this building a building; the rest is gesture,” he explains about his process.
Grover was also treated to a tour of the school by children and notes experiencing “lovely engaged students, a school with order, and for teachers – pedagogy 101 being done at a masterful level. There was life in the building.” Sadly, honoring the building in LEGOs and even getting media attention was not enough to save the elementary school, slated to close after its funding was dramatically cut. “Part of this message is to stop looking at these buildings with classist eyes.”
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