Telus Spark is teeming with life-sized dinosaurs designed to inform, engage, and entertain guests of all ages.
Dinosaurs in Motion, a travelling display by Imagine Exhibitions, opened at the Calgary science centre on Sunday, Feb. 1, and features awe-inspiring kinetic sculptures of dinosaurs constructed of recycled steel and mesh by American artist John Payne.
Payne, who devoted his life to creating dinosaurs after receiving an education as a metalsmith, recognized an opportunity to educate by combining metal sculpture with pulley systems of various kinds, and allowing museum audiences to interact with his works.
“[Dinosaurs in Motion] really is a collision between science and art,” said Alison White, program assistant at Telus Spark.
“People are drawn in by the promise of seeing big dinosaurs, which everyone thinks are intrinsically cool, but there’s such a dynamic art element to it, too.”
With everything from a 43-foot tyrannosaurus rex to full-scale sculptures of plesiosaurs and parasaurolophuses, the exhibit draws wonder and excitement from science centre visitors.
Each sculpture has a system of pulleys, varying from simple mechanics like pull-levers to more complex designs, which are operated by video game controllers.
Crowds of eager onlookers gather in front of each dinosaur, children and adults alike waiting for their chance to operate the pulleys and bring Payne’s sculptures to life.
“It’s so interactive, it’s just great for the kids,” said Chelsea Olsen, as her three-year-old daughter, Keelin, took the helm to operate the diplodocus.
While some gazed in wonder at the majestic sculptures, others were more intrigued by the scientific information that accompanied each display.
Avreet Jagdev walked through the exhibit, notebook in-hand, recording interesting facts that she learned about each species.
“I just like dinosuars, so I thought I’d take some notes,” said 13-year-old Jagdev.
“They were so cool, and I like reading about them.”
According to White, the fascination with the big lizards is common in Calgary.
“We all have that connection to dinosaurs in Alberta,” she said.
“There is a strong connection between Albertans and the badlands and the Royal Tyrrell Museum, so it’s natural for people in our city to be drawn to the exhibit.”
The travelling exhibit, designed to make an impact on its viewers, combines muted overhead lighting with specifically-coloured spotlights that reflect off the metal sculptures, creating a colourful glow around each dinosaur.
In the darkened room, the effect is captivating and adds to the artistic element of the show.
“It’s meant to really leave an impression on everyone who walks through the exhibit,” said White.
“You walk in, and it’s dark, and when you turn the corner there’s this life-size 43-foot T-rex standing in front of you, lit by bright colours, and he’s moving.
“It’s meant to make ‘wows’ happen.”