A stunning tower of white cranes ascending skyward. A glorious winged horse. A life boat suspended by bronze oars. Sounds like a dreamlike fantasy, but we can assure you it’s quite real. Read on to hear about The Morton Arboretum’s newest temporary exhibit, Origami in the Garden, which is inspired by the Japanese art of paper folding and reams of wholesome fun.

photo: Artist Kevin Box with White Bison

What can you expect to see?
We’ll tell you!  Take a stroll and enjoy 25 displays featuring 38 large-scale metal origami sculptures created by Santa Fe based artists Kevin and Jennifer Box.

photo: Origami in the Garden, Hero’s Horse

While Origami in the Garden made its debut at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden in 2014, this is the first time this exhibit has been on display in the Chicago area, so don’t miss your chance to check it out.

How are these magnificent wonders made?
Amazingly, it all starts from a single piece of paper folded by artist Kevin Box. A process of wax casting and fabrication captures the intricate, delicate details of the art and blows it up larger than life using museum-quality metals.

Photo: Origami in the Garden, Master Peace

What are the highlights to look for?
The tallest and heaviest sculpture, Master Peace, took a whopping 10 years to make, from sketched conceptualization to completion. It features 500 stainless steel origami cranes, reaches 24 feet into the air and weighs more than 10,000 pounds. The piece’s reflection gives the appearance of a total of 1,000 cranes, which is in honor of the Japanese tradition of folding 1,000 cranes as a form of meditation and prayer for peace. The smallest, Armijo’s Mouse, which is part of the Who Saw Who installation, is just 2 inches tall. And in the never-before-seen category, is Seed Sower, a squirrel and acorn cast in metal inspired by none other than, The Morton Arboretum.

photo: Origami in the Garden, Botanical Peace and Basket Full of Stars

Let’s get the paper party started 
Live performances and activities in the Children’s Garden and Arbor Court inspired by the Japanese culture will mark the official welcoming of the Origami in the Garden exhibit, May 20 and 21 (11 a.m.-4 p.m.). You’ll experience a non-stop fun day of taiko drumming, traditional dances, origami performances and hands-on crafting activities. There will also be educational classes offered such as ikebana (which is a.k.a. flower arranging, f.y.i.), bonsai, brush painting, paper-making, growing a stir-fry garden (yum!) and more!

Keep the good times unfolding . . .
While Origami in the Garden is on display, Morton has loads of other activities on the daily to keep you busy well into fall.

photo: Garden Origami

Every day until October 27 (11 a.m.-4 p.m.) in the Children’s Garden, kids can try their hand at making their very own garden-themed origami in a self-guided, hands-on discovery activity fit for the whole family.

photo: Origami Extravaganza

Okay, the Origami Extravaganza event is NOT Origami 101, this is definitely expert level looking stuff. But, don’t be intimidated . . . origami expert Marilyn Schweitzer will be on-hand in the Children’s Garden from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on June 10 and 11 to help you fold paper into something truly inspired.

Infuse a bit of culture into family game night and take it outdoors with Japanese Game Day, July 8 and 9, from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. in the Children’s Garden. Introduce your family to games and crafts inspired by the Japanese culture.

Why stop at family game day? Extend the fun into Family Movie Night on July 8 (8:30 p.m.) by watching a big-screen showing of Kubo and the Two Strings, an epic adventure set in Japan, under the towering trees of the Arboretum.

photo: Destination Asia Festival

Most definitely mark your calendars for the Destination Asia Festival, August 4-6, where you can explore the diverse cultures of Asia through music, dance, food and more! Be sure to check out the tree collections from China, Japan and Korea — it’s an Arboretum, after all! The fun begins on Friday, August 4 at 6 p.m. with a formal ceremony, performances, food and a breathtaking Toro Nagashi Japanese floating lantern display on Meadow Lake.

Dates: May 19-October 22
Admission: $14/adults ($9 on Wednesdays), $9/ages 2-17 ($6 on Wednesdays)
The Morton Arboretum
4100 Illinois Rte. 53
Lisle
Online: mortonarb.org

We’d love to hear about your visit to Origami in the Garden in the Comments below!

— Maria Chambers