Crystal Vision

The Amateur Sand Sculpture Competition Returns This Month

Sand sculptors turn Siesta’s quartz sand into magical creations.

By Pam Daniel April 26, 2017 Published in the May 2017 issue of Sarasota Magazine

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A winning sand sculpture.

The ephemeral art of sand sculpture will rise from the white sand of Siesta Beach on Saturday, May 6, as Sarasota County Parks, Recreation & Natural Resources presents its 45th annual amateur competition

In case you thought all sand sculptors were amateurs, think again. A roving band of professionals competes at sand sculpture events all over the world. Many are baby boomers who decided to ditch the corporate 9-to-5 and follow their bliss to the beach. They offer private classes, workshops, even corporate team-building through sand-sculpting, and some say they’re making a decent living at it, too.

A few years ago, The Atlantic reported that one former high school English teacher earned $6,000 for a week of work in Qatar, and there’s apparently a big demand for sand sculptors in the Middle East.

But this month’s event on Siesta will draw adults and children who turn sand and water into elaborate creations just for the joy of it.

Some come with an artistic vision—like Damon Meri, one of last year’s winners. “My inspiration always comes from my efforts to combine two opposing elements in one sculpture,” he says. His Solemn Morbidity featured half of a woman’s unsmiling face and half of a skull under one shroud. Another former winner, Angela Albertson, says, “There’s something beautiful and erotic about sculpting the human form. My dream piece is a woman in full lotus pose with huge angel wings.”

But others wait for inspiration to strike. David Muklewicz, who likes to compete with his college-age sons, came up with the idea for his 2016 winning Tree Trump Tower while listening to the news on the radio on the way to the event. The sculpture combined a fairy-tale-style tree stump with the idea of a politician on the stump, he says. To viewers who asked about the piece, he replied, “We’re making a statement to stump Trump from getting the nomination.”

Whether their work is political, fantastical or hyperrealistic, contestants have four hours to construct their sculptures. And although it’s nice to win, most say what they prize most is spending time—often with family members assisting—on a beautiful stretch of beach. Albertson, who recently moved to Maui for a graduate internship program, says she especially loves sculpting on Siesta Beach’s “magical” quartz crystal sand.

Registration for the contest begins at 8:30 a.m.; judging is at 1 p.m., and awards are presented at 2 p.m. Info: (941) 861-5000. 

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