A 20-foot sand castle recently rose up in a small plaza across from Water and Moore Streets, steps from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal in Lower Manhattan. A steady stream of commuters disembarking the ferry have watched sculptor Matt Long spend his days carving the pint-sized palace out of a sand mound dumped amidst the steel and glass office towers that dominate the area.
What are you gonna do if it rains? Asks a guy on his way to the ferry.
“It rained like heck last night,” replies Long, an S.I. native. “It’s fine.”
Part of a campaign to occupy the privately owned public spaces in the Seaport Area through the middle of August, possibly to keep protesters out of them, the Water Street structure is one of hundreds of sand sculptures Long has made his living carving over the last decade.
When he isn’t busy sculpting towers and turrets, Long talks with the many onlookers who gather to watch him work. One of the most common questions they ask him is how he protects his sand sculptures from the wind and rain.
“I add a lot of water when I start and then once I’m done carving an area I have Elmer’s Glue and water thinned in a garden sprayer and I spritz that on. It makes a little tiny M&M shell on the outside.”
It seems like scant protection against the elements but Long has built his quixotic career on the formula’s effectiveness.
So how has he managed to make a living building sand castles for the last ten years?
“Ho, gimme the money!” is Long’s short answer.
Currently, in addition to selling his Can You Dig It? line of sand tools, he takes part in an annual round of competitions around the world and across the U.S. in beach towns like Hampton Beach, NH, Revere Beach, MA, Virginia Beach, VA and Siesta Key, FLA.
“The world championships were in Atlantic City a few weeks ago,” says Long. “I placed third in the doubles division against seventeen countries.”
Long will be spending much of August at the Jersey Shore, working on a series of kid-friendly sculptures for the Stronger Than The Storm campaign and carving a commemorative sculpture at nearby Monmouth Park Race Track during their annual tournament. Long says he also does team building events for large corporations, citing American Express as a recent client.
Despite it’s romantic appeal, Long isn’t sentimental about his castle-building work. The Water Street sculpture that was supposed to stand until July 31st was still standing on August 18 and Long says he fully expects to be driving a little back hoe and loading the Water Street castle into a dumpster before the summer is through.