Gavin Dombrosky, 3 years old and with six months of building experience under his belt, walked into the Lancaster Museum of Art, headed straight for the Lego station, and started working on a train.

"I was hoping to get to the other exhibit to show him what he can do with Legos," said his mother, Christine. "But he's pretty much set on playing with them."

In the other room are most of the 32 works in the exhibit called "Nathan Sawaya: The Art of the Brick," with such features as mosaics, a giant hand, and an abstract John Lennon representation, all made of Legos.

The exhibit has brought in more than 5,000 people, breaking the museum's attendance record, executive director Cindi Morrison said. One family came from England.

While field trips and children's art classes have booked up, there's plenty to look at, build, break up and build again during a regular visit before the exhibit closes May 20.

The museum set up two tables full of Legos for people like Gavin, who have trouble resisting the temptation to tinker with Sawaya's pieces - which, despite their material and sturdiness, are still the do-not-touch kind of art.

Sawaya's work is easy for people to connect with, said Susan Baldrige, a teacher at the Phoenix Academy in Lancaster. She took her sixth, seventh and eighth graders on a field trip to see Sawaya's first solo art exhibit.

"When you see this huge Rembrandt on the wall - and it's oils, and it's in this big, bold frame - it's sort of like 10 steps from you," Baldrige said. "This seems like one step. You know, we can at least try this."

Some did try, while others discussed.

Wilson Castillo and Chrissy Bell, fifth graders at Wickersham Elementary School in Lancaster, were interested in Balance, a piece of two almost identical Lego men connected at the hands. The black figure, with knees bent and arms extended, holds the white figure up in the air.

"It look like it's acrobats," Castillo said.

Bell had another idea. "Me, I was thinking that this might be a shadow," she said, pointing to the bottom one.

Then Castillo saw it differently. "It looks like yin and yang. See," he said, pointing back and forth and repeating his discovery. "Like good against evil."

Sawaya, a Manhattan resident who is staying in Lancaster for the exhibit, has been meeting with groups like Castillo and Bell's almost three times day, as well as with art students at nearby Millersville University.

"It's interesting. The younger kids, they just want to talk about the Lego, the building process," Sawaya said. "The kids at the university, it's much more about the business of being an artist."

Sawaya gave up a law career to go pro in the Lego artist business after winning a national contest in 2004. But he started constructing in 1978, when he was 5.

If You Go

"Nathan Sawaya: The Art of the Brick" is at the Lancaster Museum of Art, 135 N. Lime St., through May 20. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays. Admission is free.

For more information on the museum, call 717-394-3497 or visit www.lmapa.org. For more on Sawaya's work, visit his Web site at www.nathanbrickartist.com.

EndText