MENTOR, Ohio — Art has many mediums. Some artists use paint, some use metal, others, like Carl Jara, use the earth as art. Jara is a professional sand sculptor and his latest work is being molded on the shores of Headlands Beach in Mentor.
Jara has been interested in art since he was a teenager.
"I was in high school. Firestone high in Akron. I was in the arts in the art room five out of nine periods a day and my senior year my art teacher was just pulling her hair out. She's like, 'look you need to find a hobby,' Jara recalled.
From working in the school's stage crew to printing t-shirts, Jara looked around for that hobby and finally drew his line in the sand as a college art student.
"I went 'The sand is so cool, but I can't bring it into the art building because it's a craft, it's not an art thing' and I just relented, I got an illustration degree," Jara said. "And for my senior show, I did a 15-ton sculpture in the gallery and at the school it blew up. It was crazy. People loved it. So I graduated from college and became a sand sculptor."
Since then, Jara has made art at beaches all over the world, participating in numerous sand sculpting contests.
"I've been competing on a master's level since 1997. I've done sand sculptures in 13 countries...38 states, three Canadian provinces," Jara said.
The Northeast Ohio native is back home for his latest contest—a sand sculpting competition at the Headlands BeachFest. The event is scheduled for Saturday but Jara's work started Thursday morning.
"It's going to take each of us like the full day to get these piles ready to go. Tomorrow we'll get up nice and early. We'll be out here probably until dark. And then the next morning we'll wake up really early," Jara said. "This is a sprint. These are not going to be slow—no. They will be meticulously sculpted, but one has to draw a line as to how meticulous one can be when there's this much work to do."
As Jara shovels sand from one place to the next and packs down a solid foundation to start his sculpture, he lets what the sand will transform into come to him.
"As I work, the sculpture sort of begins to literally take a shape. And then what I do will be wholly dependent on that shape that I'm creating now," Jara explained. "So I haven't really decided on anything yet because I literally just finished another sculpture two days ago. And had a chance to think about it. But also just because I haven't visualized it yet. It's here somewhere."
His process may be different than his competitors, who are also friends of his—but no matter how the artists come up with their ideas, the end goal is to create a beautiful piece and earn the votes of guests at BeachFest Saturday.
"This is my hometown. We're close to my hometown. I'm born and raised in Cleveland. So for me, it's just really nice to have an event here on Lake Erie within the Greater Cleveland area," Jara said. "Like I love this. This is great. And I get to invite two of my friends out here to sculpt with me. I know we're competing, but it's friendly competition."
Jara and two other artists will have their sculptures on full display at the top of Headlands Beach. When people walk up to the welcome tent at Headlands BeachFest on Saturday, they'll be given a token to vote on their favorite of the three sculptures.
Guests will also have plenty of other activities to participate in.
"There'll be sand sculptures. There'll be food trucks. They'll be crafters, over 20 of them. There'll be family sand-building contests throughout the day. A DJ will be here to keep things lively," said City of Mentor Recreation Coordinator Maggie Kuyasa. "There'll be interactive activities for the kids. That they can make crafts and take them home."
Saturday's event is bound to be a good one with perfect weather in the forecast. This event is one that people around the area look forward to every year.
"This, nobody in Lake county does this but us, so it's very special and we love it. And they love being here," Kuyasa said.
As for Jara, he's hoping for a good turnout to Headlands BeachFeast—and of course, a home-beach advantage for the sculpting contest.
"I obviously have the advantage because I'll have 5,000 people show up who already know who I am—are already rooting for me," Jara said with a smile. "I hope, right guys?"
And even though the art isn't forever, it's a medium Jara appreciates for it's temporary beauty,
"I live for this moment. We don't give you guys a gallery of artwork that lasts forever that somebody can sell for trillions of bucks...We give you sort of an experience, we're giving you a moment in time," Jara said. "We know our work disappears, because we're here for the experience in the moment, not necessarily the finished piece that is important. But this is it. This is why we're here."
Headlands BeachFest takes place at Headlands Beach State Park located at 9601 Headlands Road. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, and admission and parking are free. To learn more, click here.
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