Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Updates from ArtPrize: 9/19/12

Update 9/19: There was some damage from the sprinkler system, but that problem has been resolved. The recent rain had no effect whatsoever -- this sand is super good stuff! (Thanks again to Greg Jakubowski and Coit Ave. Gravel.) My biggest concern is vandalism - there is simply no way to guard the sculpture 24/7, and the promenade appears to be a magnet for folks who -- have no where else to be. They hang out and imbibe a bit, and I have tried to make friends.  So far that seems to be working. One guy in raggedy clothes and with no teeth in his head surprised Em and I by insisting we accept his $5 donation.

Video: A short timelapse of the "pound-Up Party" - thanks to all who showed up and participated! 

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Sunday, September 09, 2012

ArtPrize Pound-Up Party!

So. The last few days have been exciting! Delayed flights; plans changed in mid-stream; a fully-loaded truck bed tailgate-fail resulting in 3 weeks worth of my favorite workclothes likely scattered over hwy 77 and possibly gone forever (find them and return them to me and you WILL be rewarded); monster storm in IL that scared the bejeebers out of us but here we are at the family cabin on beautiful Glen Lake in northern Michigan (hi, sleeping bear!) for a few days of R&R before our ArtPrize adventure truly begins. What a life!

For my Michigan friends - It is looking like our pound up party will happen this coming Saturday on site at the Louis Campau Promenade. If you were ever interested in discovering what is involved in making about 7 tons of sand stand long enough to be carved into something amazing, this is your opportunity! Basically, it involves moving a pile of sand from wherever they let us dump it (hopefully very close by) into some plastic forms. The sand will be mixed in with some water (I have been told that we will need to get that water out of the river, but I am hoping to suss out a better source when I go by to check things out on Friday) and tamped down into the forms. If a lot of people show up to help, this will go very quickly. If I have to do it all myself, it will still go pretty quickly (this is really not a lot of sand) -- as long as a friendly face or two shows up with a six-pack and an encouraging word.... say, sometime after noon or so?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

And so, the Sandcastle Trail blog morphs into the ArtPrize 2012 blog. I may get back to the trail someday -- when I figure out a way to ironclad a sculpture in way that it still looks like sand....

Very excited about ArtPrize -- thanks Grand Rapids for giving me a good reason to come home! Thanks to my high school chums for being so encouraging and supportive -- really looking forward to the good times we will undoubtedly have when I am back in the 'hood for a few weeks. And a BIG thanks to Greg Jakubowski at Coit Ave. Gravel for offering to help me out with some excellent sand. I am hoping to get about 6 tons of the stuff dropped someplace very close to the Louis Campau Promenade on Sept. 14 or 15. As soon as that happens, we get to have the "Pound Up Party" where we pack sand and water into plastic forms. With a wee bit of help (and a borrowed wheelbarrow or two), I should be able to complete that step in one day -- 2 max -- and then the fun begins. With the help of my amazingly talented nephew - Emerson Wierenga Schreiner (more on him later) - I expect to have something worth looking at by the time ArtPrize officially opens on Sept. 19.

But before any of that can happen, I have to zip over to California for a little project this weekend. Within hours of my return on Sept. 6th, Em and I will hop in the truck and take a nice long road trip from South Padre Island to Glen Lake, MI for a few days of R&R before heading back south to GR.

Please bookmark this blog for the very latest in my ArtPrize adventure, and if you haven't already, check out this page for some clues as to what I hope to accomplish there (and how you can help, if you have a mind to.)

Sunday, February 05, 2012

My Sand Castle Days Idea -- fleshed out!

The headlines read that South Padre Island is best known as a super trashy spring break destination. Yay. What if we could change the world’s perception of us - virtually overnight! - into that of the place to go to see world class sand sculpture all year long? As I have already pointed out (multiple times) -- as of now the 25th annual Sand Castle Days doesn’t have a date or a home -- let’s do something extraordinary and create a new version of the festival that will last several months, be funded by a new private/public partnership and pay off in dividends all year long, benefitting the whole town while changing the way everyone looks at us by truly promoting SPI as the Sandcastle Capital of the World!

Let me paint you a picture

Starting shortly after Labor Day Weekend, the best master sculptors in the world begin arriving on the island. Each is committed to completing at least one large sculpture in a sandbox at a major venue (Louie’s, Hilton, Isla Grand, Sea Ranch, etc.) and several smaller ones in and around other local businesses. Starting as early as Sept., there will be things for spectators to see and do. Sculptors will post a schedule when they will be working and allot one hour a day to interact with the visitors, be it answering questions, demonstrating a technique, etc. Some of the sculptures will be built outside: in parking lots, courtyards or flower beds. Some will be built indoors: in lobbies, planters or window boxes or in less-used corners. Sculptures will be completed on a staggered schedule and each completion will be noted with a “opening/unveiling”, drawing more traffic to the host venue and giving the press something to crow about. Each completed sculpture will be added to the sandcastle trail map as it is completed, and spectators get to start picking their favorites and commenting on aspects of the various sculptures and their creators throughout Sept. and Oct. -- raising the level of excitement. All will be completed by mid Oct. (traditional SCDays dates)....

Leading up to one weekend in late Oct., which will be the big finale for the whole festival. Major venues will vie for the chance to host this. In addition to the amateurs, the one-day contest will feature the newly-enhanced “Texas State Championship” -- an 8-hr competition now opened to anyone (lingering master or ambitious master wannabe) willing to fork up the $50 entry fee and be judged via peoples choice…. perhaps in conjunction with a music festival and trash art sculpture contest, etc. Meanwhile, everyone can vote online for the "semi-permanent" sculptures at the major venues and the winner (medal only) is announced at the grand finale.

The sculptures on the beach will last a week or two at the most, but the ones built indoors or on private property could easily last through the holidays and even into Winter Texan season, giving visitors who may have missed the festival itself a good reason to come back and see what they missed (and make sure they don’t miss it next year.) Once the indoor sculptures start to crumble, the host venue could reclaim the space in time for spring break, if they so desire -- or they could keep the sandbox in place and a) hire a local sculptor to re-do the sand in seasonal themes, b) import kiddy toys and let the small fry take over or even c) hire a sandcastle instructor to give weekly demos and/or lessons in the sandbox while mom and dad spend money nearby. The venues that keep their sandboxes intact would be all ready for next year’s festival when, come Sept., the whole thing starts again. And the businesses who didn't participate in 2012 will be standing in line to participate in 2013.

This is what you expect to see when you come to the Sand Castle Capital of the World and it is truly and completely doable, even within the confines of the existing $35,000 budget. This is how:


I am envisioning this as a public/private joint venture. As I understand it, the city has committed to spend $35,000 -- which will easily pay for prizes and promotional expenses. The city will also help with ground transportation of sculptors, sand-moving logistics, etc. The other major expenses (mostly the ones associated with master sculptor fees and expenses) will be covered by the businesses who will also be the major beneficiaries of this festival.


Covers the amateur contest, Texas State Championship (1-day event with good prize money), sculptor “clubhouse” and special events
Agrees to temporarily “relax” some sign ordinances during the 2 months leading up to SCDays to encourage businesses to commission sculptures that tie in with their services (i.e. a book store could have a book-themed sculpture; Sea Turtle Inc. could have a sea turtle, Island Dogwash could have a dog, etc.)
To increase publicity, the city could pass an ordinance making it a crime to kick a sandcastle, similar to the one banning ties a few years back. Sentence offenders to a “sandcastle clinic” or something…. the internet eats it up!
Promotes the festival via internet, print and broadcast routes
Oversees voting and gathers info about the people who are coming and voting

Major Venues ($3000-5000?)

This covers the cost of flying in a master sculptor, providing room and/or board and a decent weekly wage
The venue also provides a sandbox of whatever size they want placed where they want it. They choose a sculptor who will work with them to create something they would be happy to look at for several weeks/months

In return, they get an incredible sculpture created and treated by a master sculptor which must be completed a week before the contest weekend. This sculpture could - with glue treatment and minimal on-site security (plastic chain link fence and a “do not touch” sign) - last for several months (see current Visitors Center Sculpture which has lasted for over a year.)
These venues also get an “unveiling/opening” party attended by press and all the cool kids, as well as a lot of attention on all promotional materials.
(These venues will see immediate and direct benefits from their participation during a time when business is usually very slow, and they can write it off as 100% promotion). 

Second Tier Sponsors (restaurants, condos. shops)

Can contribute money or can provide meals or accommodations for the visiting sculptors. In return, they will get smaller, temporary sculptures in or around their properties.
Since these venues will see immediate and direct benefits from their participation during a time when business is usually quite slow, they will be happy to contribute $300-$1000 (cash, goods or services), certainly. These sculptures (and their host venues) will also be noted on all promo materials.

Master Sculptors 

Many are between gigs or live in places that are turning cold in the fall. They could arrive on their own schedule and stay as long as they are working. The sculptors are encouraged to schedule times/days when they will interact with the public. On bad-weather days they can do smaller indoor sculptures for other local businesses. Some sculptors may just contribute one major piece, others may stay and do smaller, commissioned pieces as well. They could be housed in sponsoring properties and eat donated meals/groceries. The biggest chunk of their pay would come from the major venues, but would be supplemented by owners of smaller venues willing to pay to participate and be promoted on the trail. The sculptors who create the biggest crowd pleasing sculptures earn themselves an invitation back the next year on top of decent daily wages. If they stick around for the Texas State Championship, they have a shot at some good prize money.

Main Benefits

More participation from local businesses when they see that the whole town - not just one property - benefits
Fewer traffic/parking issues with spreading the event out over several weeks and several venues
Creation of a new, long-lasting attraction that can be built upon each succeeding year
New identity for SPI that will help us stand out in a crowded field of similar beach towns
More bang for our buck - the city spends the same amount of money but gets a lot more sand sculpture!

As you can see, I have given this whole plan a lot of thought and am willing to work my tail off to help make it happen -- if the town would just give the idea a fair shake. I have presented this idea to everyone I can think of and gotten a lot of really positive feedback from everyone EXCEPT the city officials who could get the ball rolling (with the notable exception of Councilwoman Alita Bagley, who has been most encouraging.) This is the time! We can do this! It won’t cost hardly anything and the potential benefits are many. You would pay an ad agency big bucks for an idea this uniquely-tailored to the island -- why do I have to keep begging people to give it serious consideration?

I am so sure that some beachy community somewhere someday is going to do something like this and benefit from it hugely. Why not us? Why not now? 

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Monday, January 30, 2012


I really really dislike Valentines Day. Even way back when once upon a time long ago when I kinda felt like I was in love with some guy, VD was generally a tense, demanding day that was almost always a disappointment to everyone concerned. Bah humbug.

This year I have been preemptively mitigating the pain by creating "sandy hearts" (a calorie-free alternative to candy hearts) in my lovely back yard. Trying real hard to feel the love. I've been enjoying the process, but I find myself very tempted to make mean, cynical statements with them and am having a hard time restraining myself.

So. In an effort to get the bile out of my system, I have created a series of "anti hearts" that I will now start tossing out into the internets. Feel free to steal: I've learned that my heart is just not worth all that much on the open market.

not "too hot", not "too cool"

I used to be "Mad 4 You" but now I'm just mad

Once upon a time I wanted you to Be Mine but that was then
(X as in "Former")
"Sweet Pea?" I think not
I used to heart U; Now I just stomach U.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sand Castle Days Evolving?

I want to talk today about Sand Castle Days and the Sand Castle Trail. (Please doesn't groan ;)

I recently received an email asking about dates for the 25th annual SCDays. The website has not been updated, so I forwarded the request to Mary K, who wrote back to tell me there was not a date or a location as of yet, but that the event would probably be moved to Sept. due to weather and red tide considerations.

This suggests to me that this event is in for some sea-level changes -- which I think is a good thing, as it opens up opportunities for this festival to evolve into something bold and completely different in 2012:

Who says SCDays can last no longer than a week? Why not start building large sculptures in Sept., and have them finished and viewable all autumn long, leading up to the traditional amateur & Texas State Championship contests in Oct., to take full advantage of 24 years of tradition? And who says all the sculptures have to be in one location? Why not put them all over town (spreading traffic and parking over the whole island and over a month or longer) and let people seek them out and then vote for their favorites online? Why not have the masters do multiple sculptures while they are here (solo, duo and team) and get more bang for our buck? Why not build contest sculptures indoors (at city hall, the convention centre, the visitors center, etc.) when the weather is not cooperative? Why not start even earlier and have weekly amateur events all summer long leading up to the fall festival? With a little "out of the box" thinking, we could take that same $35,000 budget - lasso in some more funds from the larger island properties who will be able to see direct benefits from their contributions - and create something even bigger that will attract and entertain more people than anything we have done before.

(I would encourage interested parties to google ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, MI - a long-running, very successful contest where different venues host artworks and the public votes for their favorites. There is no reason why this couldn't work as a model for something completely new and different to the world of sand sculpture -- and it could originate right here on SPI!)

This is my area of expertise. I started this event and was fairly instrumental in keeping it going for most of the past 24 years. I have lots of great (and probably some not-so-great ;) ideas as well as the energy and the enthusiasm to help make them happen. But when I wrote the town's activity director and respectfully requested an opportunity to work with the city and share my ideas on how we can make the 25th annual SCDays the best yet, I was told in no uncertain terms that my input and assistance were not needed or wanted.

What if the Sand Castle trail and Sand Castle Days were to work together to extend and grow everything? What if all the people who love sand sculpture and SPI could work together instead of jealously guarding their little territories? Why not really and truly make SPI the Sand Castle Capital of the World?

All I am asking for is a seat at the table and a chance to serve my community by doing what I do best.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

This Castle Needs a Forever Home - updates from the sandcastle trail

And so the plan evolves....

I was betting a lot on that mermaid. I spent a lot of time on her. I took things slow, pouring lots of diluted glue into the form to give her a decent shot at setting up quick enough to foil the vandals. I carved her head, and waited, letting them pick at her and patiently repairing every indignity they bestowed upon her. I fenced her in. I posted a pleading sign - "Thanks for not touching." I pressed tumbled glass into her tail to make it sparkle in the sunlight. After she was finished, I sprayed her good -- and almost as soon as I walked away, they took her out. 
Destruction was pretty much complete.

It kinda sorta felt like murder. I grieved. 
And then I pondered...

I had done everything I could think of - short of posting a guard 24/7 - to keep this sculpture around long enough to develop the protective shell she needed to get called “semi-permanent” -- and it wasn’t enough. Is it time to give up on my idea of a Sand Castle Trail for South Padre Island? 

Nope. Not yet. Because I have experienced just enough success to convince me that there is a way to do this!

Here is what I Have Learned:

  1. The sculptures that have lasted have been the ones built in yards, tucked into landscaped corners, and created in a park that hardly anyone knows about or visits (the SPI Butterfly Garden.)
  2. After a month or two of curing, the sculptures become so hardened that they will stand up to a fair amount of abuse. 
  3. High-traffic areas on public property are just not good sites for these sculptures. More people get to see them in such areas, sure. But the terrorists are too numerous, too thoughtless, too darned mean.
  4. Private, commercial and/or off-the-beaten-path locations are better. Make people seek them out. Make 'em look at the site, print up the map. Make them think twice about destroying private property.


To give the sculptures their best chance, they must be protected while they are curing. 
They will cure faster if they are smaller. 
They will be molested less if they are on private property.
I can best protect them while they cure if they are located in my fenced-in back yard. 
If I am going to have to move them, they have to be light-weight and either relatively small or modular so that they can be reassembled in their final resting spots.

This Castle Needs a Home!
Voila! A prototype! This castle stands about 21 inches tall. It has a styrofoam core to reduce its weight -- I am pegging it somewhere between 10 and 20 pounds. When it has throughly dried and hardened, it can safely (I hope believe!) be moved to some sort of pedestal or perhaps it can become part of a larger castle to be installed in some sort of semi-private or commercial location -- which will become the next stop on the SandCastle Trail

(The pedestal could be just about anything -- a piece of wood, a rock, a planter -- or it could be made of sand, with a name or whatever carved into it.)

So all I need now is a good place to put this little castle -- and that is where you come in. I am going to give this sculpture away to a good home. If you can suggest “the perfect spot” for this castle, please do so - ASAP. I will take all suggestions into consideration and -- once the castle becomes solid enough to move (which could be in just a week or two thanks to the sunshine and hard, dry wind we are currently experiencing) -- I will install it in its new location and we will see how it fares. Deal?

Please send a description and - if possible - a photo of a good spot for this castle to at the earliest opportunity -- thanks!