In the right hands, a collection of Lego toys can be transformed into almost anything their creators please. We’ve seen replicas of the Empire State Building, spaceships, dinosaurs, and miniature cities. This week, John M. Dunnan Galleries is paying homage to these beacons of creativity by hosting the second annual Dunnan Lego Spectacular, a competition in which Lowcountry residents of all ages are invited to build and submit their own unique Lego creations, each vying for cash and prizes.

“I’m using this as a vehicle to promote creativity,” gallery owner John Dunnan says. Now in its second year, the event was inspired by Dunnan’s now 10-year-old son. After witnessing his son’s creative use of the blocks, Dunnan decided to host the Spectacular. “We view it as an art form,” Dunnan says of playing with Legos. He offered little direction to participants, giving them a blank canvas, if you will. “The only thing we ask is that it’s not a kit. It’s a creative creation,” Dunnan says.

The last event drew a variety of entries from participants ages 2 to 90 years old. It also brought in one of the biggest crowds Dunnan has seen at any of his gallery openings. “There were a lot of children and press, and a lot of excitement,” he says.

With Dunnan serving as judge, 9-year-old Jake Norman was awarded first place for his entry last year, which Dunnan describes as an abstract piece. Rather than accepting a cash prize, Norman opted to have Dunnan — an acclaimed artist who was trained at the Corcoran School of Art — create a canvas that depicted his winning piece. “It now hangs in the boy’s bedroom,” Dunnan says. “But he also won a big Lego set.”

For this year’s competition, Dunnan is requesting that all entries are submitted to the gallery by May 5, along with a $40 entry fee. Dunnan will once again serve as the sole judge, with the winners announced on May 6 at the Spectacular’s opening. The cash and Lego prizes for the top three contenders are dependent upon how many people sign up for the event — the higher the number, the bigger the check. Though each of the entries will be on display at the gallery through May 20, none of them are for sale. “We’re not selling the pieces,” he says. “The creations go back to their creators.”

Dunnan says that he is excited to see this year’s crop of entries — last year’s included robots, towers, and even an alligator, which was awarded third prize. “I’m a big advocate of the arts and creativity. I like anything creative,” he says. “Legos are very visual and tactile. I’m looking for creative and interesting pieces.”