Building Jackson, One LEGO Block at a Time
December 5, 2012 – by Sophie McNeil Wolf
It started as just a fun distraction and hobby, one way to cope with the progressing disability Scott Crawford felt due to Multiple Sclerosis. Tiny LEGO pieces modeled into the city of Jackson were first meant to brighten his Fondren home for Christmas. When friends saw the display, they urged him to contact the Greater Jackson Arts Council, which offered to put it on display. For the third year in a row, Jacksonians and visitors alike can now view LEGO Jackson, Crawford’s toy-like view of the capital city, at the Arts Center of Mississippi through mid January.
“I wanted to present an optimistic, hopeful view of the way Jackson can and will be: a clean, safe community that welcomes everyone, with well-kept houses, bike lanes, sustainable energy sources, accessible streets and sidewalks, public transit, and most important of all, civic pride,” Crawford said.
This year, Crawford hopes to instill civic pride through LEGO Jackson even more in response to a break-in at his storage unit this past year that deliberately destroyed one third of his exhibit. “That was emotionally hard to take, because this is meant to be a gift to everyone,” he says.
After several months, he was able to clean the pieces, rebuild the structures and create the decals that add realism. In addition, Crawford added a new piece, Phoenix Rising, that will be unveiled at the exhibit opening to commemorate the rebuild.
To say Crawford is strong and active, not only with his hobby of LEGOs, but in the community is an understatement. Crawford volunteers on various boards and organizations, advocating for accessible transit, sidewalks, and buildings, as called for in the Americans with Disabilities Act. “Creating a society that welcomes everyone, regardless of ability, is what I’m passionate about,” he says.
A graduate of Millsaps College and graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a Master’s and Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, Crawford has not always faced the physical challenges he does today. “Adventure sports were my passion: sailing, windsurfing, mountain biking, and road cycling in particular,” he recalls. “Amateur Astronomy was also a big hobby of mine.Â I always considered a dark night sky one of the most beautiful sights, sort of a cathedral built by God.”
In 1999, he came down with a rapidly progressive form of Multiple Sclerosis. “I went from snow skiing in northern Idaho and bicycling seventy miles to using a wheelchair in under two years.”
Living in Fondren since 2006, Crawford values the small town feel of the neighborhood, but the central urban amenities, like close by shops. “It’s a friendly, walkable community that values diversity and cultural enrichment,” he says. “The availability of public transit routes and shopping within walking distance is very important to me, since I can no longer drive and at any rate, prefer the ‘greener’ modes of transportation. Without nearby shopping centers like we have in Fondren, I’d be unable to live alone as I do.”
It’s these same features that Crawford hopes shines through in LEGO Jackson — public transit, bikes lanes, diversity. But what is his favorite part about the whole project? “It is great to see the looks on children’s faces, as they light up and point out all the details they see. But for me, it’s the message that matters most. We can make our city as bright and vibrant as LEGO Jackson if we’re willing to work at it.”
Scott Crawford’s LEGO Jackson is on display in partnership with the Greater Jackson Arts Council at the Arts Center of Mississippi in downtown Jackson. The display will be up until Mid-January. Hours are Monday-Friday (10-6), Saturday (10-5), Sunday (12-4).