Community is the glue behind TapeScape sculpture at Children's Museum

| Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

When you see the quirky TapeScape sculpture opening this weekend at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, you might think of Superman's Fortress of Solitude. Maybe it will seem like a gigantic web a team of big spiders wove. Or, maybe it will look like a twinkling ice sculpture when illuminated with colored lights.

“What fascinates me is how it's striking people in different ways,” museum spokesman Bill Schlageter says.

Whatever TapeScape reminds you of, the sculpture is made entirely from 3M-brand packing tape. Layers and layers of it — some 22 miles and more than 300 rolls of it.

Artist Eric Lennartson of Mankato, Minn., spent time at the North Side museum wrapping the tape around a steel-pipe framework on top of it, then winding it around and around, with tape “tendons” holding the shape, to form a giant tunnel with holes for climbing and peeking out the top. You won't feel any stickiness here: The tape is double-wrapped with the adhesive part inside the lines. That leaves the surface smooth, says Lennartson, who compares TapeScape to a three-dimensional bridge.

“When (tape lines) stick together, it's going in two different directions together and it gets super-strong that way — super-rigid, and super-strong,” says Lennartson, 43. His specialty is stained glass and, now, TapeScapes.

Lennartson created his first TapeScape at the Children's Museum of Southern Minnesota, and his second at the Children's Museum of San Jose, in California. Many community members, including teen volunteers from Avonworth High School, helped Lennartson build the Pittsburgh TapeScape, which follows no blueprint. The sculpture, which is in the traveling-exhibit gallery on the first floor, takes place as the people build it.

“It kind of happens organically,” Lennartson says. “I can't build this on my own.”

Kids and adults can climb into the sculpture, crawl and slide around on its slippery walls and floors, and climb through the holes that were cut. The children — including Lennartson's twin boys, 11-year-old Gus and Luke — get giddy when they explore the TapeScape. So do the adults, who, Lennartson says, “become 10-year-olds again.”

During the TapeScape's three-month run, musicians will make periodic appearances in the room, and kids can make their own tape projects in the museum's Makeshop.

Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 412-320-7824.

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