By  //  February 15, 2013

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Detailed Sculptures Will Amaze Visitors

World champion sand sculptor Thomas Koet, a Dutch native now living in Melbourne when he’s not traveling the globe, gives his early Florida settlers an incredible realism. (Image by Robert Hughes)

BREVARD COUNTY • VIERA, FLORIDA – The Brevard Zoo is opening an exhibit called the Art of Sand on Saturday, Feb. 16 that’ll take visitors back in time as well as have them marvel at what incredible works of art can be made from sand.

The exhibit will feature 13 incredibly detailed sculptures with the theme “Wild Florida: Past, Present and Future” and visitors will be able to view them up-close along a quarter-mile trail through the zoo’s natural setting.

Dan Belcher of St. Louis measures up the sand sculpture that introduces visitors to the Brevard Zoo these days, in anticipation of the Art of Sand show that starts Saturday, Feb. 16. (Image by Robert Hughes)

The sculptures are arranged to take visitors through time, ranging in subject from prehistoric animals to the Indian burial discovery at Windover Pond to Ponce de Leon and Florida Crackers on the cattle trails.

“We look for themes that connect people to nature,” Brevard Zoo executive director Keith Winsten said. “And this exhibit shows the relationship between nature and people, the good and the bad.”

A Melbourne company, Sandsational Sand Sculpting, has built the sculptures out of 504 tons of sand that required 23 dump-truck loads.

Eight of the top sand sculptors from around the world worked on the project for weeks, and the result of their talented efforts will blow away anyone who sees the details and artistry.

Winsten feels especially fortunate, because he was able to see the sculptures taking shape.

“It was exciting to watch it all unfold,” he said. “And when you get the light filtered through the trees on the trail, it gives an incredible touch to each sculpture.”

“It was exciting to watch it all unfold. And when you get the light filtered through the trees on the trail, it gives an incredible touch to each sculpture.” Keith Winsten, Brevrd Zoo executive director

Winsten said he hopes families will find it entertaining for everyone of any age. “And they’ll find it’s not too expensive to bring everyone, too,” he said.

The cost of entry to the Art of Sand is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $2 for children ages 2 to 12, which is additional to the price of entry to the zoo.

Visitors have been able to view one of the sculptures being built over recent days at the entrance to the zoo. And at least one of them viewed the project in disbelief, but for a curious reason.

“I just can’t believe they’d go through all that trouble to build something that will be destroyed the next time it rains hard,” George Kelly of Oneida, New York, said.

That’s a common reaction from people who can only relate sand sculptures to what they may have built on the beach when children.

The sand used in sculptures, however, is quite different, as it comes from the middle of the state and has a coarseness that holds the sand together.

Brad Goll of Austin, Texas puts the finishing touches on some big reptiles on his sand sculpture. (Image by Robert Hughes)

“Rain will just run through it,” said Jill Harris, owner and manager of Sandsational. “It would take hard rain for days to do any harm to the sculptures.

Harris said there was another misconception regarding sand sculpting that she would like to clear up.

“Some people assume we glue the sand together, and that’s not true,” she said. “We will spray some water mixed with glue on the surface, but only to form a crust to help hold together the details, but not to hold the sculpture together.

The project is massive. The work depicting Ponce de Leon’s first European landing 500 years ago on what would become the United States is about average size for the sculptures and it alone required more than 30 tons of sand.

“Actually, only about half the sand remains when we’re through,” explained world champion sand sculptor Thomas Koet, who is Harris’ business partner. “The other half was carved away to create the form you see now.”

Jim Richardson of Palm Bay is the sculptor who built the first artwork to be seen by visitors to the Art of Sand trail, and his job was to show a work at different stages in the process, from a block of sand to a final creation.

“It’s nice to do large, impressive sculptures without having to work on a large rock.” Jim Richardson, Palm Bay sand sculptor

“It’s dynamic,” Richardson said of his project. “I have to make steps that look like they lead to the final image.”

Richardson’s sand sculpting career got going in 1981 when he and his aptly named wife, Sandy, and two others won the grand prize in a sand sculpting contest with a depiction of Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog. The Richardsons also get the credit for introducing Harris to the business before she started her Sandsational company in Melbourne.

Richardson said he enjoys the challenge carving sand presents and sheds a different light on its difficulties.

He said, “It’s nice to do large, impressive sculptures without having to work on a large rock” like most sculptors do.

The sand sculptures will have to endure Florida weather for a while, as the Art of Sand runs Saturday through Memorial Day weekend.

Art of Sand is being produced through a partnership of the Brevard Cultural Alliance, Space Coast Business Marketing  and the Brevard Zoo.

For more information, go to ArtofSand.org.


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