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US Sand Sculpting Challenge & Dimensional Art Expo Takes Over The Broadway Pier This Labor Day Weekend

Sand sculptures are shown in the Broadway Pier building on Aug. 30, 2019
John Carroll
Sand sculptures are shown in the Broadway Pier building on Aug. 30, 2019

In a building that normally hosts cruise ship passengers, there is instead art on display this weekend. In the Broadway Pier building, sand sculptors are creating 3-dimensional pieces of art.

But before these intricate works can emerge, there’s some hard work to be done.

Boxes must be constructed and then filled with lots of sand.


Master sand sculptor James Shin said creating these sculptures involves one part brute force and one part art.

"They take sand and water and they start putting it in these boxes called forms and as they pound it and compress all the sand together, it gets very, very tight so you can carve into it," Shin said.

VIDEO: Sand Sculpture Competition Digs Up Wonderful Creations

The formal name of this event is the U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge and Dimensional Art Expo.

It’s the 8th year for the event which is part competition, part exhibit.

On one side of the room, teams of four sculptors compete. On the other side, solo sculptors ply their trade.


This year’s theme is “wonder.”

There are sculptures of Wonder Woman, Stevie Wonder and others that aren’t so obvious, all of it remarkable.

"One of the things I've always liked about sculpture is what you pull away reveals the true beauty of what’s there, what’s hidden in this big chunk of sand," Shin said.

The sand here is not of the beach variety. This stuff comes from a quarry in San Diego County and that makes all the difference.

It’s why Shin says he prefers working with sand over other media like metal or marble.

"Sand can be a little bit forgiving, there’s a certain amount that you can fix and then there’s a certain amount that you can’t," Shin said .

The sculpting challenge and expo opens to the public on Saturday.

It goes through Monday evening.

Then the artwork will succumb to a bulldozer and the quarry will take back its sand, leaving only memories of these works of wonder.