Portland artist Mike Bennett loves dinosaurs. He thinks you’ll love them too after visiting his pop-up museum, Dinolandia.

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Portland-based visual artist Mike Bennett poses in Dino Landia, a pop-up museum created in a former department store in downtown Portland. The museum operates from May 31st to September 10th, 2022.

Courtesy of Josh Chang / @pdxploration

The abandoned Banana Republic store in downtown Portland has been transformed into a vast two-story pop-up dinosaur museum, Dino Landia. Visitors passing through the front door step into a 22,000-square-foot zoo of about 70 brightly painted, handmade dinosaurs. They include armored Ankylosaurus, the evil Velociraptor, and the towering Tyrannosaurus Rex, which is 15 feet high.

Dino Landia is the brainchild of Portland-based visual artist and self-proclaimed “public joy creator” Mike Bennett, who brought together a team of 33 friends, fellow artists and volunteers this spring to prehistory. Helped set up, paint, and illuminate the playland of the era. We use 120 gallons of recycled paint and more than 420 donated plywood. He also starred as a mad scientist who had his friends compose a soundtrack and needed your help to repair a broken time machine in a series of interactive videos.

Bennett shared his favorite exhibits, the stories behind their creation, and how the experience of creating them influenced his next interactive installation. Themed tavern.

Professor Rex’s collection room

One of the exhibits in Dinolandia is a room filled with black and white fossils in honor of the Natural History Museum, which features a skeleton made from dinosaur fossils.

One of the exhibits in Dinolandia is a room filled with black and white fossils in honor of the Natural History Museum, which features a skeleton made from dinosaur fossils.

Courtesy of Josh Chang / @pdxploration

“When designing Dino Landia, the first thing I knew was a space inspired by the Natural History Museum, which is the most surreal part for me because it’s what I had imagined,” Bennett said. Said. He also recalled frequent visits as a child with his family to marvel at the Tyrannosaurus Rex and other fossil skeletons on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. This black-and-white fossil bone and skeleton exhibit, which he calls “Professor Rex’s Collection Room,” pays homage to his youth visit to the Natural History Museum and sees it come back to life. “It’s the most surreal part for me, exactly what I imagined.”

Trippy Stegosaurus Forest

A pair of plywood cutouts, Stegosaurus, stare at visitors from the lush, vibrant, prehistoric forests of Dinolandia.

A pair of plywood cutouts, Stegosaurus, stare at visitors from the lush, vibrant, prehistoric forests of Dinolandia.

Courtesy of Josh Chang / @pdxploration

From the fossil room, visitors step into an elevator that has been rethought as a jerky time machine. When the elevator doors open upstairs, the brightly lit forest is flooded with vibrant green shades, including a pair of Stegosaurus. “I like to hang out there to greet people and see their reaction. It’s all worth it,” said Stegosaurus Forest with “surprisingly effective” color and lighting contrasts in black. And white fossils.

Towering Albertosaurus

This 15-foot-high Albertosaurus almost reaches the ceiling. Along with Tyrannosaurus Rex, it is the tallest dinosaur in the museum and was assembled by five people.

This 15-foot-high Albertosaurus almost reaches the ceiling. Along with Tyrannosaurus Rex, it is the tallest dinosaur in the museum and was assembled by five people.

Courtesy of Josh Chang / @pdxploration

The museum has a floor-to-ceiling length Albertosaurus, 15 feet high. In its current incarnation, this terrifying apex predator, which lived 70 million years ago, is adorned with purple and lavender colors. Bennett said he chose these colors to change the palette, “it’s the paint I put around.” It took five people to cut out, assemble, draw and paint Albertosaurus. Bennett joked about the look of the dinosaurs.

Nod to our geographical past

Mike Bennett commissioned a mural of the prehistoric Columbia River, breaking through the wall and running through the corridors within Dinolandia. You can see Mt. Hood in the background of the mural.

Mike Bennett commissioned a mural of the prehistoric Columbia River, breaking through the wall and running through the corridors within Dinolandia. You can see Mt. Hood in the background of the mural.

Courtesy of Josh Chang / @pdxploration

Bennett has recruited some artist friends to lend their talents and creativity to bring Dino Landia to life. One of them is Julia Hankler, a two-day painting of a giant prehistoric Columbia River mural that pierces the museum walls and runs through the corridors against the backdrop of Mount Hood. “If I could go back in time and see what happened to the rest of the Pacific Northwest, I thought it was a cool concept,” Bennett said.

Fun dinosaur facts!

The timelines scattered throughout Dinolandia help visitors know that the various dinosaurs on display lived tens of millions of years apart.

The timelines scattered throughout Dinolandia help visitors know that the various dinosaurs on display lived tens of millions of years apart.

Courtesy of Josh Chang / @pdxploration

When designing Dino Landia, Bennett wanted to create a space to educate visitors as well as entertain men and women of all ages about paleontology. He hired a friend to help create the times and facts that the dozens of dinosaurs on display lived, and the most famous dinosaur movie franchises and other pop culture breads ever made. I occasionally nodded to the crumb list. “The biggest thing for me was to put these timelines together … and see how far these dinosaurs live,” he said. “It’s a bit crazy that there’s little fossil evidence for some of these dinosaurs. We don’t know as much as we think we know about dinosaurs. That’s the most interesting thing I think.”

Incubate dinosaur eggs

Cretaceous Creations is an exhibition in Dino Landia featuring the works of eight artists set up in the dressing room of a former department store. This is an image from one of the art installations depicting a hatched baby dinosaur egg.

Cretaceous Creations is an exhibition in Dino Landia featuring the works of eight artists set up in the dressing room of a former department store. This is an image from one of the art installations depicting a hatched baby dinosaur egg.

Courtesy of Josh Chang / @pdxploration

Cretaceous Creations is an exhibition of the works of eight different artists and friends from Bennett, who used the space that was once a fitting room to create an immersive dinosaur-themed experience. One of the participating artists is Chase Castro, an exhibit of hatched baby dinosaurs made from materials such as polymer clay, stuffed animal parts, feathers, styrofoam, and bamboo. The picture on Castro’s display is “incredible, but it’s not justice. A lot of things are happening,” Bennett said. “It’s like a dinosaur is excited to have a baby. Look, the dinosaurs are born now!”

Floating Brachiosaurus Canopy

According to Mike Bennett, one of the last exhibits in Dinolandia was also one of the most difficult to make.  It features seven floating Brachiosaurus heads and necks, each painted in a different iridescent color.

According to Mike Bennett, one of the last exhibits in Dinolandia was also one of the most difficult to make. It features seven floating Brachiosaurus heads and necks, each painted in a different iridescent color.

Courtesy of Josh Chang / @pdxploration

The Jurassic journey ends past the canopy of seven Brachiosaurus heads, each depicting a rainbow of different colors, appearing to float on a curved staircase down to the main floor. Bennett said this was the last work he and his team made when “burnout was struck hard” and raised the challenge of installing and converting from concept to creation. “It was a mysterious hole. I didn’t know how it would be filled in,” he said. “It wasn’t what I expected it to look like, but I love it.”

According to Bennett, Dino Landia will be on display throughout the summer and will be down in September, but its implementation may be extended. Still, he believes that the temporary nature of it makes it more attractive. “Dino Landia will never exist in a way that will ever exist again, and I think it adds real excitement and magic to such a space,” he said.

For more information on Dino Landia and Mike Bennett’s previous art installations, press the play arrow below to hear his interview with “Think Out Loud.”

Dino Landia is located on 710 SWYamhill Street in downtown Portland. It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm and will be held until September 10. Admission is $ 5 for adults. Free for children under 8 years old.

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