Meet Bernheim’s Endearing Bug Animatronic

By Hannah Coleman-Zaitzeff

Sam Hensley with their animatronics at BUGFEST

Last year Bernheim featured 2023 Artist-in-Residence Sam Hensley at multiple Bernheim events. She led creature creation activities at RESTORE, made creature headbands and Playcosystem Happy Hour, and delighted crowds with their bug-inspired animatronics at Bugfest. Sam’s animatronic creatures, big and small, are all inspired by nature and bugs of all kinds. The creatures came from her studio in Chicago, where she has spent years creating unique moving sculptures and original hand-drawn comics and zines about their fictional lives and pursuits.

While Sam was at Bernheim, they went on frequent late-night “bug hunts” armed with a camera and a headlamp to encounter bugs of all kinds that only come out at night. Their hikes and the popular Night Hike series inspired Sam to create a creature that complimented the vast number of fireflies that light up Bernheim in the late spring and summer months.

A close-up of Lumen by Sam Hensley

During their second Bernheim stay in fall 2023, Sam created Bernheim’s newest art installation titled Lumen.

Lumen is a little forest guardian who roams the woods of Bernheim at night, tending to its many nocturnal insects. During the day you can find him in the Visitor Center. Since Lumen is nocturnal, he must rest in the daytime, but he likes to wake up and greet visitors occasionally. You can find him awake from 12 pm to 2 pm daily.

While in residence, Sam also finished their comic Creamthing. The full-length comic is slated to be published in 2024 by Perfectly Acceptable Press in Chicago. Bernheim vista’s such as the Lake Nevin Loop and Rock Run trail inspired some backgrounds featured in the comic. Keep an eye out on Sam’s social media to learn when it is available for purchase and come visit the Sassafras room in the visitor center to see Lumen on display.


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