For the sixth year, Dr. Scott Crawford exhibits his ideal version Jackson in the 170,000+ piece LEGO exhibit, Keep Building Jackson, opening at the Arts Center of Mississippi (201 East Pascagoula Street – beneath the Planetarium) on Saturday, December 5.

Find It In Fondren™ spoke with the retired psychologist who takes on the massive project in spite of his challenges, inspiring Jacksonians young and old to do their part to build their own better world. 

LEGO Jackson is now ‘Keep Building Jackson’? What’s behind the name change?

It is in keeping with the theme, “Build with what you have.” Building with LEGO bricks is a metaphor for dealing with adversity. One never has all the bricks one wants, and sometimes we lose them, like I did when I got multiple sclerosis. We’re left to rebuild with what we have. Another metaphor I live by is that none of us have all the “pieces” – individually – to build something truly wonderful, but collectively, each of us has a unique set of “blocks/pieces” that, when we work together, can produce something far greater than the sum of their parts. That’s what community is all about, and I’m hoping to inspire kids of all ages to work hard to make Jackson (or whatever community they live in) a better place. That means picking up trash, getting to know and taking care of our neighbors, taking a stand against crime and injustice, volunteering and being involved citizens. It means recognizing our fundamental inter-dependency and collective responsibility.

Your newest addition is an amazingly detailed Fondren Corner. Tell us how this came about. How many pieces, how long did it take…

Fondren Corner was always on my “to do list” because it’s beautiful and a signature Jackson building. Some of the decision about what to build though is practical. LEGO’s “Pick-A-Brick” website readily sells most of the bricks I needed to construct Fondren Corner (blue, red, yellow). Sometimes, I want to build something particular but the colors/shapes aren’t available, so I have to choose something else.

It took about four months. Most of that time was spent waiting for another order of bricks to ship from Europe. I can only make educated guesses about the number of bricks I need and can only estimate at the number of pieces in Fondren Corner, but probably 17-20 thousand. It has the volume of the Standard Life Building I did a few years ago, but Fondren Corner leant itself to larger bricks, which, thankfully, means it is sturdier and safer to transport. I built it in three sections (the blue, red, and yellow areas come apart to be packed away).

Like always, when I’m doing an authentic building, I take pictures from EVERY angle to make sure I get it right, and the building owner, Mike Peters, was kind enough to let me onto the roof-top patio so I could make that authentic as well. The only thing I “embellished” was the roof-top garden, which would be a wonderful addition to the real building. Yeah, that and the fact that pizza’s don’t really grow on trees. I made that up (wishful thinking).

Six years now and it keeps getting bigger and better. How do you continue to push through obstacles to continue to ‘keep building?’

I’m a compulsive workaholic by nature, and although I have to sleep a lot more than I used to (12 hours each day, roughly four of those in the afternoon), the rest of the time I spend as efficiently as possible. Mostly I do advocacy and volunteer work for various boards and commissions. When I find the time, I build onto the LEGO display a few hours here and there. I got some donated bricks this year from some generous people, whose children had grown up. So, I’ve incorporated some of those bricks into new creations (like a State Fair ride, the “swing” with the red arms), and worked on sorting more into plastic drawers for future use.

I try to avoid thinking about the future and the inevitable progression of my disease. Staying busy helps with that. To me, life is about making a difference in the here and now. Yes, I get depressed. Definitely. I just try not to show that in public.

You build this exhibit mostly by yourself but I know you get lots of help with logistics and such. Anyone you want to shout out?

The Greater Jackson Arts Council (GJAC) has been so supportive and helpful over the years. They are generously providing a $1,500 grant (the second one over the years) for 2016. Janet Scott, Tammy Golden, and Mack Sullivan (GJAC) continue to be a big help with the setup and outreach. Scott Overby Properties is providing another grant this year to help offset expenses. The City of Jackson has contributed a growing number of tables each year (we’re up to 18!) I want to thank the people at JATRAN for getting me to/from the exhibit, because without them, it would never be possible. The Boy Scouts of Troop #99 and all their adult leaders, especially JPD District Commander James McGowan, who expertly help me carry the pieces downtown and get the beginning of the setup done (getting it all on the tables). I want to thank the donors who have given financially to help offset some of the expense. We received about $600 in donations last year, and I also appreciate the people who donated gently used bricks. Even the Mississippi Symphony got involved by loaning us an easel. More than anyone though, I want to thank my mom, Judy McNeil, and my sister, Rene’ Crawford, for helping so much with transportation and setup.

Hours are 10am-5pm, Monday through Saturday, through January 15th. Admission is free but donations are gladly accepted.