I have been creating sand sculptures at public and private events all over the world for almost 20 years now. It has always been in the back of my mind that someone might not be able to resist the urge to destroy one of my creations. I could not even imagine how I would react if that had ever happened. Unfortunately I was about to find out.
At a recent public event in Yarmouth MA, vandals destroyed roughly 40 hours of hard work that my team and I had put into a centerpiece sculpture for the Summer Kick Off Celebration. My team and I were just finishing up breakfast and getting ready to hit the beach for our second day of carving when I got the call from parks and recreation director Pat Armstrong. I could tell by the tone of Pat’s voice that something was wrong. ” You’re not going to see what you left last night” , she said, noticeably upset. “It’s pretty bad.” My first reaction was to remain calm and try not to over react. When we arrived on scene, we found that the top three feet of our ten foot sculpture had been knocked off and all of the carved detail that we had done the day prior was wiped clean. In its place were scratch marks, gaping holes and the word sorry scratched into the surface.
At that point my team and I could have given up and explained to Pat that recovery from such a devastating attack was not possible. What we did do, after the police had finished with their initial investigation of the scene, was get right back to work with our trademark “failure is not an option” attitude. Fortunately for us, we had done such a good job prepping the sand, that it was difficult to do little more than surface damage to the sculpture. The main body, less three feet in height, was still intact. We made a promise to Pat and the residents of Yarmouth that our finished design would be even better that our original plan. That same spirit was also reflected in a particular group of life guards who volunteered to hold nightly watches over the sand sculpture to prevent the possibility of future attacks.
Over those next two days, as we completed the sculpture the outpouring of support from the community leaders , residents, media and tourists was incredible. What ever the vandals were trying to achieve by destroying our hard work, they failed. The one thing they did do was bring added attention to sand sculpture as a legitimate form of public art. Thousands of people turned out to view the progress of the sculpture and many more will continue to enjoy it over the next few weeks. Yes, I think we kept true to our promise to Pat and the Town of Yarmouth.Our sculpture was received very well by the thousands who came to see it. We were even able to include an additional element into the sculpture to pay tribute to all the life guards that graciously volunteered their time to watch over it each night. There were a few people who were quick to blame the attack on the irresponsible young people. I will make the point that this group of young people, under the direction of Pat Armstrong, were some of the most admirable group of people that this artist has ever met.
The police are still investigating the incident. While it is not the crime of the century, destruction of public art is considered a felony in most states. If the suspects are caught, I would suggest to the judge hearing the case to consider having them volunteer to help us prep all the sand for next year’s event. Perhaps if they experience all the hard work that goes into creating a sand sculpture , it will make them think twice about ever destroying one again…One Grain at a Time.Share on Facebook