With rakes, spoons, garbage cans and other odd tools, about two dozen teams competed Nov. 19 in the annual Sandblast sand-sculpting contest held to benefit Keep Manatee Beautiful, an anti-litter, pro-green nonprofit.
A change of venue took place for the 2011 event, with sand-sculpting teams gathering at the Manatee Public Beach, 4000 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, instead of on the shore in Bradenton Beach.
Teams, sponsored by local businesses and representing school groups and nonprofits, selected plots measuring about 15 by 15 feet. The sculptors arrived with tools — shovels, spray bottles, buckets, garbage cans — and plans for sculpting along a nautical, holiday or free-form theme.
Participants included Ad-VANCE Talent Solutions, Bayshore High School National Art Honor Society, Braden River Middle School NJHS, Braden River High School Key Club, Bradenton Christian High School Art Department, King Middle School Environmental Club, Lincoln Middle School Student Council, Manatee High School Anchor Club Team 1, Manatee High School Anchor Club Team 2, Manatee High School Art Club, Manatee School for the Arts, Southeast High School Key Club, Southeast High School Visual and Performing Arts Academy, SCF Earth Club/Phi Theta Kappa and Palmetto High School Tigers.
The building began at 9 a.m. and continued to 1 p.m., when judges circled the sculptures to decide the winners.
Sandblast coincided with Keep Manatee Beautiful’s celebration of America Recycles Day. KMB presented artists showing recycled art at the cafe, as well as showed off the massive, 80-ton sand-sculpture created by Team Sandtastic last week.
The professional sculptors arrived Nov. 17 to begin building the sculpture, conduct clinics in sand-sculpting and help judge the Sandblast contest.
The Islander caught up with Mark Mason of Team Sandtastic, which holds a Guinness World Record for the tallest sandcastle, with some questions about sand, sculpting and tips for Thanksgiving vacationers spending a lot of time on the shore.
The Islander: You have a different venue this year — Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach. Where’s the most interesting location that Team Sandtastic has worked?
Mark Mason: We craft sculptures all over the globe — love the travel, even to a new venue on Anna Maria Island. Just two weeks ago I was carving in Cape Town, South Africa, and an annual event each January in India has been quite fun. But Abu Dhabi was one of the top spots — it is where we carved 1,400 tons into a display for the Red Bull Air Races.
The Islander: People will be visiting your sculpture at Manatee Public Beach for a month. What kind of process is involved in the team deciding what it will build?
MM: This is our 11th Sandblast, and by now the client is comfortable letting the sculptors go carte blanche. And I do believe you get the best sculptures from a team of seasoned sculptors when you allow them a lot of artistic license.
The Islander: What does it take to be a professional sand-sculptor? Knowledge of sand? Or art?
MM: A little bit of column A. A little of column B. All combined with a passion to stick it out through the grunt work — shoveling and packing.
The Islander: When you see severe weather ahead and know that a sculpture is going to suffer, do you wish you worked in a more permanent medium?
MM: No, I actually like the ephemeral nature of our art. I like the performance art of working on a piece in front of guests. That’s not to say I like to see it get rained on or ruined by a bird, etcetera, but that’s the nature of the beast.
The Islander: Team Sandtastic offers classes on sand-sculpting. What’s the one thing that anyone who decides to make a castle or anything else in the sand should know?
MM: Some forethought helps. Learning some of the tips, tricks, tools and techniques — the four Ts helps. And designing a piece not based on ‘the easiest design we could think of,’ but one that tells a good story and draws in the viewers to suspend their disbelief from edge to edge of your sand box.
The winners of Keep Manatee Beautiful’s Sandblast contest are:
• Free-form: Bayshore High School National Art Honor Society, first place for “Visit to Grandma’s House” and Braden River High School Key Club, runner-up for “Mount Toy Story.”
• Holiday: Bradenton Christian High School Art Department, first place for “Island of Sandy Toys” and Manatee High School Anchor Team 1 for “Waiting for Santa.”
• Nautical: Manatee School for the Arts, first place for “Fish are Friends not Food” and Manatee High School Anchor Team 2 for “Shark Attack.”