LEGO convention assembles its way to New Orleans


Paul Hetherington created a Mardi Gras set completely out of LEGO pieces. Photo credit: Andres Fuentes

Andres Fuentes

Brick by brick and piece by piece, BrickUniverse has built its weekend-home from Feb. 2 through Feb. 3 at the Pontchartrain Center, marking the first-ever LEGO convention in Louisiana.

Combining both LEGO artists and vendors, the convention seeks out to spark inspiration and creativity for all ages with some assembly required.

From play areas to LEGO exhibits, the event has already created a buzz in the local area, according to BrickUniverse Organizer Greyson Beights.

“We are excited to be here,” Beights said. “We already sold out Saturday and we are selling out Sunday. There are a lot of LEGO fans in the area. We like to come to cities where there’s a need, and there’s certainly a need for this type of event here in New Orleans.”

With its first-ever toy brick-based convention, New Orleans will welcome five LEGO artists and their pieces for the weekend, giving the city a chance to be up close and personal with the trending art form.

“I am an artist and it happens to be that the medium I choose to work in is LEGO bricks,” Jonathan Lopes said. “I assimilate LEGO as the medium like paint is to a painter or clay would be for a sculptor.”

Lopes has been an avid fan of LEGO since he was a child, but he credits his LEGO artistry career to a Star Wars X-Wing set that he bought back in 1998.

“The creativity was sparked in my head,” he said. “Slowly over time, over 20 years, I’ve turned it into a creative business for the past eight years now.”

Lopes has grown to create LEGO pieces for galleries, finding inspiration anywhere from the New York architecture to the fictional characters that are featured in his wife’s children’s books.

“It was not planned. I just found myself really enjoying the feel of (LEGO) and trying to push the limit and stretch myself as a LEGO builder and creator. So the fact that it turned into a full-on artistic median and a business for me, it kind of just happened naturally.”

Paul Hetherington shares a similar view, being an artist with the material for 15 years.

“LEGO allows me to express myself and get all the thoughts in my head into a three-dimensional form,” Hetherington said.

Hetherington travels to New Orleans with his award-winning model sets, one of which is themed to a Mardi Gras parade in the French Quarter.

“It’s such a vibrant scene,” he said. “There’s so much life in Mardi Gras that I thought it would be perfect to recreate in LEGO.”

Despite never attending Mardi Gras, Hetherington searched through photos andbooks to accurately capture the carnival spirit.

“I think my Mardi Gras is pretty close,” he said. “People like it when there’s a local element to relate to. Personally, I’m really excited to bring this model to New Orleans. I think the only thing missing is the beads.”

Aside from the artists, vendors will also be present, selling rare LEGO pieces and sets.

Doug Davis from will be among the eight vendors at the convention.

“We pack and unpack a ton of cool, rare, hard-to-find things,” Davis said. “I’m a reformed hoarder. About seven years ago, we started selling and I had a huge backstock of (LEGO sets) that were old and retired already.”

With a love of the bricks dating as far back as three-years-old, the 48-year-old vendor enjoys selling and trading mini figures, sets and pieces across four different events each year.

The two-day event will hope to bring about a new perception of LEGO.

“A lot of people view it as a children’s toy. but adults and children are stretching the limit of what can be done with LEGO. It’s basically a toy that people are using to create some very unique people,” Lopes said.

Beights hopes that the attendees will see what he sees in the colorful bricks.

“We are trying to inspire,” he said. “Any day that a kid is building LEGO and away from a video game, away from a tv screen, is a win for their future and I think our future as well.”