It was about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday when a team of 28 Harlem High School art students arrived on the beach at Tybee Island, and when they left about 4 p.m., they left behind a sea monster, a larger-than-life ladybug, a sea turtle, a guitar, a man escaping from a shark and a camel.
After a stop at the Telfair Museum in Savannah to see the Tiffany exhibit, the students and their art teacher Margaret Shearouse continued on their eighth annual sojourn to the beach to experiment with some three-dimensional art and a little good-natured competition.
"We want them to have 3-D experience in art class, but the best we can do is clay," Shearouse said. "This gives them something huge. It's a chance to take a small design and build it to scale, and it's a different medium they have to conquer."
The students, in teams of four to six, hauled sand and water from the ocean to sculpt their designs. In the end, local beachcombers were pulled in to judge. They awarded the sea monster best overall, but created a separate "most creative" category for the guitar, the head of which was topped off with a starfish found by Thomas Kennedy.
"It's also a lesson in teamwork and problem solving," Shearouse said. "Things they think will work here, until they get down and try to build something big on top of something tiny, then they find it won't work."
Only two of the teams had a clear idea of what they would build when they arrived. Anika Diener said she kept seeing ladybugs all day, which gave her the idea.
"We decided to go with it," said Anika, who built the ladybug along with teammates Christine Futch, Amber Lowe, Marcie Wingo, Ashley Shaw and Amber Graham. "We were talking about it on the bus and decided to use seashells for the spots on its back. We wanted to do a mermaid, but everybody does a mermaid each year. We wanted to do something different."
Harlem High School art instructor Margaret Shearouse (standing on left) oversees the team building a sea monster.
Photo by Melissa Hall
Eric Milford had the design for the guitar drawn before his group - Mike Petereit, Mandie Dixon, Eric Grayson and Kyle Cheesborough - ever touched sand. Why a guitar?
"Because music is art," Mike said.
"We're the music fanatics in the class," Mandie added.
Armed with buckets, shovels and garden spades, the teens set out to make their masterpieces.
"Your first challenge is how do you get (the sand) to come out," Shearouse said to Nickomie Garcia, who was struggling to get a load of sand out of a bucket.
Nickomie's team - Mary Simpson, Janet Goodman, Rachel Parrish, Preston Barrett, Robert Whitten and David Shockey - first had the idea of building a sandcastle. But by the time the day had ended, the castle had evolved into a man wearing flippers and a bathing suit made from sea shells escaping from a shark.
"We need to come up with a good title like 'You can't escape your fears,' " said Mary. But in the end, the group settled simply on 'Escape."'
Allison Cawley's team - Ashlee Wright, Bryson Jones, Megan Hannon and Cameron Mason -originally had thought they might re-create the World Trade Center's twin towers.
"How tall is it going to be?" Allison asked her teammates.
"As big as me!" Cameron said.
But in the end, the 5-foot-plus structure was too daunting and the group set its sites a little lower - a camel with its head resting on the sand and a hump rising from the beach.
The group that built the winning sea serpent - David Dye, Jamie Riner and Courtney Downey - had a little help from Courtney's mom Amy Downey.
"We're building a sea serpent, like a Loch Ness monster," Amy Downey said as she smoothed some sand around the monster's head. "It's going to be bigger than all the rest of them."
Jennifer Paxton decided to leave the group's mark on the sand. She single-handedly constructed a sea turtle. And with HHS Art Club spelled out on its back with shells and reeds, anyone passing by would know that they had been there - that was their art they had left behind.
At least until high tide.
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