Dinosaurs Come Alive at the Saint Louis Science Center

If you can dream it, you can do it.

Those are the words that inspired artist and kinetic sculptor John Payne. His work is the focus at the Saint Louis Science Center’s latest exhibition, DINOSAURS IN MOTION, which offers both the wonders of science and the beauty of art.

This one-of-a-kind exhibition in Forest Park teaches about many different areas of science, from robotics to fossilization, as the 14 dinosaurs on display keep you fully engaged and learning as you make your way from one amazing sculpture to another.

From the moment you walk in the door, Payne’s work takes you on a journey. The first area of the exhibition displays his earliest work. The dinosaurs on display in the Beginner Studio are inspired by actual fossils, and they demonstrate basic concepts of biomechanics and balance. From the jaw down to the shoulder, Payne replicates the science of anatomy to show how the creatures’ joints enable them to move. Along with the displays, there are Innovation Stations that show what it takes for an idea to become a reality, teaching the importance of sketching and planning.

As you move into the Intermediate Studio, the Dinos really begin to come to life. These creations move by using a lever-and-pulley system that you can maneuver, creating full-body movement. Much like a puppet on a string, these dinosaurs are created to move at your command. By manipulating the dinosaurs and exploring the Innovation Stations in this studio, you delve deeper into the science of movement. This fantastic room provides opportunities to explore and create, engaging you for a very long time. From the artistic metalworking to the biomechanics of speed, there’s just so much to be explored.

The next stop is the Advanced Studio, where the dinosaurs evolve into robots. Here, you can move the dinosaurs by activating motion sensors as you approach the display, or with a remote control that provides full control over movement, lights and sounds. The dinosaurs’ movements are shockingly smooth and realistic, as the animatronics truly bring the display to life.

The final stop on this journey of discovery is Payne’s Master Studio, where the focus of his work shifts from dinosaurs to birds. That’s because Payne shares the belief of many paleontologists that modern birds are descended from dinosaurs. This studio features two all-metal bird sculptures. With intricate details such as feathers made of metal mesh, they are more lifelike than anything you’ll have seen so far in the exhibition. As you approach these familiar feathered creatures, the motion sensors bring them to life. Springs  as explained in the Beginner Studio  allow for the beaks to open and close. The pulley system, shown in the Intermediate Studio, opens the massive wings on either side of Payne’s masterpieces. And the robotics featured in the Advanced Studio keep the pulleys in motion.

From start to finish, the DINOSAURS IN MOTION exhibition truly lives up to its billing as a place “where art and science meet.”

Managing Director of Visitor Services, Jackie Mollet has received enthusiastic feedback from visitors of all ages, especially on the hands-on experience the exhibition offers. “We have been able to make a lot of connections in the community with organizations and different groups of visitors,” she said. “We have received comment cards from grandparents letting us know how much their grandchildren liked the exhibition. The kids love that they can maneuver the dinosaurs, and the adults really enjoy it as well.”

No matter how many times you may have visited the Saint Louis Science Center, you owe it to yourself to go and see John Payne’s creations. It’s an exhibition that makes learning fun and offers an experience you don’t have every day — the chance to feel as if you’re in a room with an actual Tyrannosaurus Rex!

DINOSAURS IN MOTION opened at the Saint Louis Science Center on March 17 and will be open through September 1. Hurry over to see this amazing exhibition before it goes extinct.