It's like sand castles on steroids.

Stunning sculptures and other temporary works of art, created from sand, will line Tybee Island's North Beach on May 10 when the Savannah College of Art and Design presents the annual Sand Arts Festival. Sponsored by SCAD's schools of Fine Arts and Foundation Studies, the festival will be held 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"The Sand Arts Festival celebrates the creative spirit engendered with the school and the students," says Chris Nitsche, professor of Foundation Studies. "It is a great example of how the joy of creativity is expressed in a simple material as sand and sculptural interaction with wind.

"This festival shows the significance of three-dimensional art, designed and built by the contestants. As an extension of studio art classes, students create successful works by planning in advance with drawings and maquettes, and coming prepared with tools, buckets and all they need for fun at the beach.

"It is a wonderful day, watching artwork emerge before your eyes," he says. "North Beach becomes a veritable art gallery of sculptures and castles."

Sand Arts competitors can choose from a number of categories, including sand castle, sand sculpture, sand relief and wind sculpture. Three winners will be selected from each.

The Gray's Reef best underwater creature, realistic or fantasy, will be selected from entries in the sand sculpture, sand relief and sand castle categories. That award will be presented by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation through Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary.

Last year's festival drew more than 400 competitors and about 5,000 visitors. This year, nearly $5,000 in prize money is offered in a number of categories.

In 2012, visual effects student Adam Varga was a second place winner in the sand castle category.

"Last year's festival was a lot of fun, but also a lot of work," he says.

"My teammates and I arrived early, picked our plot of sand, and immediately began carving our design - a 'Star Wars' Naboo palace-inspired castle. I must have lugged buckets of water back and forth 20 times.

"I learned time management, got a major work out, and most importantly had fun with plenty of friends," Varga says. "I definitely look forward to participating again."

While the competition is open only to SCAD students, alumni, faculty and staff, the community is invited to watch as the works are completed and a panel of judges selects the winners.

Bryanna London was a first-place winner in last year's sand sculpture category. "As a visual effects major, I spend 99 percent of my time in front of a computer, so it was refreshing to work outside on such a nice day," she says. "It was a fun challenge to build something that looked cool out of sand.

"The festival brings the community together," London says. "I have never seen so many people at the beach before."

The festival began in the early 1990s as a field trip for foundation studies classes. It evolved into a 3-D sculptural component to the Sidewalk Arts Festival held in Forsyth Park each April. Have photos from previous festivals? Share them using #scadsand on Twitter.

"Just like the Sidewalk Arts Festival, Sand Arts absolutely delights the public," Nitsche says. "It's a great time to interact with SCAD students.

"Folks talk to them, photograph them and their work," he says. "Kids start building their own sand sculptures."

"The festival shows that both SCAD and the city of Savannah are promoters of artistic and environmental causes," Varga says. "It is a great social event where students can interact with the community and where Tybee beach and the city of Savannah gain attention.

"The festival gives a great opportunity for students to practice their artistic and building skills," he says. "One of my teammates is an architecture major and I'm visual effects.

"Together, we used our design and building skills to build a grand sand sculpture," Varga says. "The festival is a great physical and artistic outlet for students of any major."


What: SCAD Sand Arts Festival

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 10

Where: Tybee Island's North Beach

Cost: Free